Brutley v. Com., No. 96-SC-1076-DG

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
Writing for the CourtDaniel T. Goyette, Frank W. Heft, Jr.; STEPHENS; JOHNSTONE; WINTERSHEIMER; COOPER; GRAVES; John D. Carroll; GRAVES; WINTERSHEIMER
Citation967 S.W.2d 20
PartiesDonna BRUTLEY, Appellant, v. COMMONWEALTH of Kentucky, Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 96-SC-1076-DG
Decision Date16 April 1998

Page 20

967 S.W.2d 20
Donna BRUTLEY, Appellant,
v.
COMMONWEALTH of Kentucky, Appellee.
No. 96-SC-1076-DG.
Supreme Court of Kentucky.
April 16, 1998.

Page 21

Daniel T. Goyette, Frank W. Heft, Jr., J. David Niehaus, Office of the Jefferson District Public Defender, Louisville, for Appellant.

A.B. Chandler, III, Attorney General, John R. Cox, Assistant Attorney General, Frankfort, for Appellee.

STEPHENS, Chief Justice.

There are two issues presented in this case. The first is whether a district judge (who is not a successor judge) may employ contempt power, to punish violation of another judge's order entered in a different division of the court and in a different case. The second issue is whether a district judge is bound to obey an administrative order of the Chief District Judge which requires a grant of continuances in "instant appointment cases."

On January 27, 1995, Donna Brutley, appellant, was convicted in Division 101, the traffic division of the Jefferson District Court, of driving on a suspended license. She was represented by a public defender in this matter and was ordered to pay two-hundred dollars for that representation. Subsequently, eight bench warrants were issued against appellant for failure to remit the two-hundred dollar payment.

On March 29, 1996, appellant appeared before the Honorable Joseph Ray in Division 105, the felony examining division of the Jefferson District Court, on a charge of possession of a forged instrument. Prior to taking a plea from appellant Judge Ray sent the sheriff to find the "first public defender" available, to represent appellant on the felony charge. Consequently, an "instant appointment" was made, resulting in Sue Martin, of the Public Defender's office, representing appellant.

The previously issued bench warrants were brought up for the first time by Judge Ray after the "instant appointment" was made. Martin asked to be granted a continuance on that matter, in accordance with an order of the Chief District Judge mandating continuances when requested in cases of instant appointments. Judge Ray refused to grant a continuance, but gave Martin the opportunity to withdraw from the case. Had Martin chosen to withdraw, the case would have been passed for thirty (30) days during which time appellant would have been taken into custody.

For ethical reasons, Martin chose not to withdraw and instead went along with the plea agreement on the forged instrument charge. Subsequently, appellant was found to be in contempt for failing to pay the two-hundred dollar public defender fee and sentenced to thirty (30) days in jail.

The Jefferson Circuit Court affirmed the sentence holding that "[t]he Chief Judge ... is purely an administrative position. No other district judge including the Chief Judge has the authority to 'bind the hands' of another district judge by issuing any order affecting the legal business of their Court."

Page 22

We agree with the Circuit Court on this particular issue, but reverse on other grounds.

I. JURISDICTION

Appellant's first argument in this regard is that the structure and operation of Kentucky's Court of Justice divested the district judge of jurisdiction over the issue of appellant's failure to pay the public defender's fee. It is appellant's contention that according to SCR 1.040(4), the contempt action arising from non-payment of the public defender's fee, should have been heard by the same district judge who presided over the initial charge which resulted in the imposition of the fee, or if that judge were not available a proper successor judge.

We agree with appellant on this point. SCR 1.040(4)(c) clearly states that, "[i]n the absence of good cause to the contrary, all matters connected with a pending or supplemental proceeding shall be heard by the judge to whom the proceeding was originally assigned." While there is an exception to this rule when the judge conducting the contempt proceeding is a successor judge, it is not applicable in the present case because Judge Ray was not a successor judge.

The language of SCR 1.040(4)(c) is not obscure. It means that in every district court, any supplemental proceeding--such as contempt sanctions to collect a public defender fee--shall be heard by the judge to whom the proceeding was originally assigned. In the case at bar, regardless of how the previous traffic case came to be on the felony examining division docket, absent a finding of good cause to the contrary, the public defender fee was to be heard by the judge who imposed it in the first place, or a proper successor judge.

In Richmond v. Commonwealth, Ky., 637 S.W.2d 642 (1982), the issue raised before this Court was whether a judge's power to issue a search warrant was limited to the district in which he or she was elected. We held that a legally elected or appointed district judge has the authority to act throughout the Commonwealth. However, that authority is "subject to the administrative authority of the respective chief judges and the Chief Justice and subject to the rule-making power of the Supreme Court." Id. at 646. In Richmond, unlike the case at bar, there was no statutory or court rule impediment to the exercise of authority to issue search warrants. In the case at bar, SCR 1.040(4)(c) expressly governs the placement of supplemental proceedings and therefore distinguishes it from Richmond.

The Commonwealth has argued, both in its brief and during oral argument, that the fact that the district judge had before him a defendant whose record included eight bench warrants constituted good cause. The argument being that, based on respondent's past record it could readily be assumed that she would not appear for the matter had the judge scheduled the proceeding to be held at a later date.

If, in fact, the only two options available to Judge Ray were to hold the proceeding or to allow appellant to leave the courtroom of her own volition with...

To continue reading

Request your trial
12 practice notes
  • St. Joseph Med. Ctr., Inc. v. Turnbull, Misc. No. 21
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • June 24, 2013
    ...of the court is not the equivalent of authority over any judicial decision that affects case flow. Cf. Brutley v. Commonwealth, 967 S.W.2d 20, 23 (Ky.1998) (“The Chief Judge, being this Court's delegate, has considerable discretion in administrative decisions, however no other District Judg......
  • St. Joseph Med. Ctr., Inc. v. Turnbull, Misc. No. 21
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • June 24, 2013
    ...of the court is not the equivalent of authority over any judicial decision that affects case flow. Cf. Brutley v. Commonwealth, 967 S.W.2d 20, 23 (Ky. 1998) ("The Chief Judge, being this Court's delegate, has considerable discretion in administrative decisions, however no other District Jud......
  • St. Joseph Med. Ctr., Inc. v. Turnbull, Misc. No. 21
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • June 24, 2013
    ...of the court is not the equivalent of authority over any judicial decision that affects case flow. Cf. Brutley v. Commonwealth, 967 S.W.2d 20, 23 (Ky. 1998) ("The Chief Judge, being this Court's delegate, has considerable discretion in administrative decisions, however no other District Jud......
  • Epperson v. Commonwealth, No. 2013–CA–000431–MR.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kentucky
    • August 14, 2014
    ...we must remember that whether a continuance is appropriate in any given case is the trial judge's prerogative. Brutley v. Commonwealth, 967 S.W.2d 20, 23 (Ky.1998). Therefore, such a decision lies squarely within “the sound discretion of the trial judge, and unless it appears that he has ab......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • St. Joseph Med. Ctr., Inc. v. Turnbull, Misc. No. 21
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • June 24, 2013
    ...of the court is not the equivalent of authority over any judicial decision that affects case flow. Cf. Brutley v. Commonwealth, 967 S.W.2d 20, 23 (Ky.1998) (“The Chief Judge, being this Court's delegate, has considerable discretion in administrative decisions, however no other District Judg......
  • St. Joseph Med. Ctr., Inc. v. Turnbull, Misc. No. 21
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • June 24, 2013
    ...of the court is not the equivalent of authority over any judicial decision that affects case flow. Cf. Brutley v. Commonwealth, 967 S.W.2d 20, 23 (Ky. 1998) ("The Chief Judge, being this Court's delegate, has considerable discretion in administrative decisions, however no other District Jud......
  • St. Joseph Med. Ctr., Inc. v. Turnbull, Misc. No. 21
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • June 24, 2013
    ...of the court is not the equivalent of authority over any judicial decision that affects case flow. Cf. Brutley v. Commonwealth, 967 S.W.2d 20, 23 (Ky. 1998) ("The Chief Judge, being this Court's delegate, has considerable discretion in administrative decisions, however no other District Jud......
  • Epperson v. Commonwealth, No. 2013–CA–000431–MR.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kentucky
    • August 14, 2014
    ...we must remember that whether a continuance is appropriate in any given case is the trial judge's prerogative. Brutley v. Commonwealth, 967 S.W.2d 20, 23 (Ky.1998). Therefore, such a decision lies squarely within “the sound discretion of the trial judge, and unless it appears that he has ab......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT