This is an episode of the series “By the way, NKY” by reporter Julia Fair. Find out what’s going on in Northern Kentucky here.
If you think something should be included, email reporter Julia Fair at [email protected]
More information on Judge Ruttle’s suspension
Last month, Northern Kentucky learned that Kenton District Court judge Ann Ruttle was in trouble.
The Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission suspended Ruttle for seven days without pay from April 15-22. According to court documents, Ruttle broke three rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct because she went to court last summer.
Ruttle first won the election as a judge in 1994. She is now the judge for the Kenton County Supreme Court and makes $ 118,372 a year.
Many readers turned to me who were shocked. They wanted to know more about what happened to cause the suspension of a judge who appeared to be widely respected.
So I want to explain what we know, what we don’t know, and why.
Ruttle didn’t answer the multiple phone calls and emails from The Enquirer.
First, the commission said Ruttle made a mistake in asking defendants in criminal proceedings to submit written claims for trial. It was not stated how many cases this involved.
I called the director of the University of Kentucky Legal Department, Allison Connelly, a criminal law and criminal procedure expert, to inquire about the written claims.
Connelly told me that trial in a criminal case was a “fundamental right.” A judge can only ask someone if they want to go without a trial without asking for a written request, Connelly said.
She said a judge could only ask for a written request during a civil trial.
The next thing I wanted to do was to get some context with the other two decisions that the Commission announced. According to the commission, Ruttle was wrong when she:
- Commented the Department of Public Advocacy attorneys who were “not patient, dignified, and polite”.
- Suggested that an unrepresented person enter into a plea agreement that “could reasonably be perceived as coercion”.
It is difficult to say exactly what the Commission relied on to make its decision, as I cannot get a public record of the Commission’s investigation file.
This file is not subject to the Kentucky Open Records Act, Judicial Conduct Commission Executive Secretary Jimmy Shaffer told me in an email.
But I and the readers still had questions about what happened. I followed a tip from the suspension warrant when it referred to the Commonwealth v. Raeshod Dell case. Dell was charged with public poisoning and strangulation following an incident on December 31, 2019.
There are likely more cases that contributed to the two complaints filed against Ruttle because the suspension order mentioned multiple written requests from the jury instead of just one.
I requested video footage of Dell’s case from the Kenton County Circuit Clerk office and received about 10 minutes of video for review.
In the videos embedded below, you can see Ruttle saying that Dell should no longer have a public defender because he is out of custody. During two separate court appearances in June, attorneys asked Ruttle to hold a hearing to see if Dell qualified as a public defender. She said no both times.
On August 24, 2020, Dell appeared in Rutle’s courtroom and they discussed whether he qualified to serve as a public defense attorney. Ruttle didn’t believe Dell and asked him to bring documents such as paychecks and child support plans that showed he had qualified to serve as a public defender.
Meanwhile, however, Ruttle said Dell had to revert to the ankle monitor, which annoyed him.
“It’s up to you. If you plead guilty, your time will be credited to you,” Ruttle said on the video. “Forget the public defense attorney or I’ll have the hearing. Bring me all these documents, that’s what I need.”
Dell repeatedly requested a court hearing. Ruttle told him the first thing she had to do was see if he qualified for a public defense attorney.
According to the latest court records, Dell will receive this trial, scheduled for September 16.
COVID-19 resources for NKY residents
Do you need a COVID-19 test? Here are some helpful links to resources in Northern Kentucky:
That’s it for this episode of By the way, NKY. Let us know if there’s anything you think we should include in the next one. In the meantime, there are a few other ways to keep up with your community:
- Keep an eye on your local government with us and subscribe to the free daily newsletter sent straight to your inbox every morning.
- Download the NKY News app and sign up for notifications to be the first to know about what’s new in your neighborhood.
Julia is the Northern Kentucky government reporter on the Report For America program. The investigator needs local donors to fund her grant-funded position. If you would like to support Julia’s work, you can donate to her position as Report For America on this website or email your editor, Carl Weiser, at cweise[email protected] to find out how you can fund their work.
Do you know something that she should know? Send her a message at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @JFair_Reports.
Don’t miss any news from Northern Kentucky and sign up for the NKY.com newsletter here
Comments are closed.