July 26, 2012
Judge defends brief role in case
By: Andrew Wolfson
A Jefferson District Court judge said Wednesday that she did nothing wrong when she presided over two court appearances of an accused drug trafficker with whom she lived 12 years ago.
Recordings of both court appearances show that Judge Katie King told the prosecutor and defense lawyer she knew the defendant, Mitchell R. Brown, 34, who is charged with trafficking in five pounds or more of marijuana.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” King said in an interview.
King presided over Brown’s arraignment on June 29 and a brief appearance on July 16 in which the case was passed for another hearing.
“Continuing the case, presumably for ruling by another judge, is the functional equivalent of recusal,” he said.
The Code of Judicial Conduct requires judges to disqualify themselves when their impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
But Brown’s defense attorney, Scott C. Cox, said at the July 16 hearing that he and the prosecutor had no objection to King presiding because she was performing only a “ministerial function” — passing the case for another hearing.
Cox told King that it would be referred to the “Rocket Docket,” in which felony cases are disposed of on an expedited basis in circuit court, with no input from the district judge.
“She will have nothing substantive to do with this case,” Cox said in an interview.
Bill Patteson, a spokesman for the Jefferson County Attorney’s office, said that its most experienced criminal prosecutor, George Moore, handled the case and “our assumption is that there was nothing untoward about it.”
A commercial database published by LexisNexis shows that King and Brown lived at the same address in 2000 and 2001.
Cox said in an interview with The Courier-Journal that he knows only that King and Brown are friends.
Brown was arrested on June 1 after he allegedly picked up a package containing eight pounds of marijuana at the U.S. Post office in St. Matthews.
King was first elected in 2008, despite disclosures during her campaign that she had been the subject of two police “911” calls, including one four years earlier in which police came to her home and found marijuana and a pipe in her living room. A boyfriend — not Brown — told police that they belonged to him, and he alone was charged.