Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Embattled Campbell Judge, Gregory T. Popovich, To Resign

Judge Greg Popovich from some of his 2014 campaign literature. Provided. 
It was one of the worst kept secrets in Campbell County political circles over the last few weeks: Judge Gregory T. Popovich was going to resign his District Court Judgeship after winning reelection in November 2014. Popovich has served in the 17th District for the last 22 years after winning his first election in 1993.

The Office of the Governor confirmed to Fort Thomas Matters on Monday that the Judge submitted his letter of resignation and that his last day will be March 16, 2016 at midnight.

Popovich, who just turned 65 on March 10, will leave just under two years on his term, which ends January 2018.

Popovich has told his professional and personal circles that the reason for his retirement is financial. The public retirement system can be vulnerable to losing public employees when the employee hits a tipping point where their age and time-worked reaches a critical mass and retiring pays more than working.

Some suggest, however, that recent run-ins with the Judicial Conduct Commission have pushed the judge to throw in the towel mid term.

The Judicial Conduct Commission, the only entity authorized under the Kentucky Constitution to take disciplinary action against a sitting judge, sent a letter to Popovich on October 2, 2015 detailing 54 incidents of alleged judicial misconduct. The misconduct centered around the Judge being "habitually impatient, undignified and discourteous" with attorneys and defendants.

RELATED: New Concerns for District Court Judge Gregory T. Popovich (December 16, 2015).

Previously in June of 2015, Popovich was suspended 15 days by the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission for violating five canons of the state Code of Judicial Conduct. Popovich disagreed with the commission's decision, saying that he did nothing wrong, but did not appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court, citing financial reasons as his justification for the lack of appeal.

The genesis of those charges against Popovich involved a DUI case in which the judge thought that the assistant county prosecutor, Cameron Blau, was helping the defense with its case. At the time, Blau was locked in a judicial race with Popovich, which Popovich ended up winning handily.

In the most recent case, Popovich asked for a temporary restraining order from the JCC and will continue his federal lawsuit against the commission into retirement.

During his hotly contested campaign in 2014, Popovich circulated literature to voters that stated, "I pledge to the voters of Campbell County that I will run a clean campaign and will serve the full four-year term."

Judge Greg Popovich's campaign literature. Click to see image bigger. 

With his resignation, that isn't happening.

So now what?

For day to day work, a collection of retired judges will oversee his docket. That will include the preliminary hearing for two Newport men charged with possessing child pornography, which will take place the day after Popovich leaves his seat on March 17.

An anonymous source familiar with that situation has indicated to Fort Thomas Matters that they anticipate a much higher bond to be requested at the preliminary hearing by the Commonwealth that "is on par with the horrific nature of the alleged conduct by these defendants."

For Popovich's replacement, the direction will turn to the 17th District Judicial Nominating Committee. That Committee is made up of seven members: The Chief Justice in Kentucky, two non-attorney Republicans and Democrats and two attorney in the district that has the vacancy.

In the 17th District, David Bender is one of the attorneys who'll be on that committee. Two other attorneys, Tim Schneider of Fort Thomas and Vince Thomas of Newport, are running for the other seat on the nominating committee.

When a judicial vacancy occurs, the executive secretary of the Judicial Nominating Committee publishes a notice of vacancy in the judicial circuit or the judicial district affected. Attorneys may recommend someone or nominate themselves.

Once nominations occur, the individuals interested in the position return a questionnaire to the Office of the Chief Justice in Kentucky, John Minton, who then meets with the Judicial Nominating Commission to choose three nominees, who'll then be picked by Governor Matt Bevin.

There will be plenty of internal posturing for the seat. Some high profile names, both elected and non-elected, have been rumored for the job.

FTM will update this story.

4 comments:

  1. Campbell county voterMarch 15, 2016 at 9:55 AM

    Wow. Ft thomas matters is on it. Thanks for posting .

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  2. He is "retiring" not "resigning"

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  3. re·sign
    rəˈzīn/
    verb
    1.
    voluntarily leave a job or other position.

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  4. Judge Popovich has been one of the most fair judges Campbell County has had. He ruled fairly but told it like it was and had the respect of many. This is a big loss for our judicial system in Campbell County and it is unfortunate that his career has been muddied by unfair accusations.

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