Battle between judge and Metro Corrections continues

Battle between judge and Metro Corrections continues

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A heated battle continued in one Jefferson County courtroom on Monday, between a judge and Metro Corrections.

Things got heated between District Judge Stephanie Pearce Burke and the attorneys representing Louisville Metro Corrections who are fighting the judge's claims that jail leaders are in contempt of court.

In January, Burke filed an order that asked jail director Mark Bolton and his top leaders to explain several incidents in which she said inmates were improperly held.

Burke cited numerous examples of inmates who had either been released too soon or kept in jail after they were supposed to be let out, causing hardships for inmates and a danger to citizens.

Lawyers from the Jefferson County Attorney's office, who are representing Metro Corrections, went before Burke for a status conference on Monday to address Burke's concerns about a conflict of interest. Burke said the conflict stems from the fact that some county attorneys could be called as witnesses.

The hearing became a back and forth argument when Burke stated, that at the time, the court was not going to address the pending motion to dismiss a contempt order against Metro Corrections. That motion would come up on the hearing date.

Assistant Jefferson County Attorney Matt Golden disagreed with Burke and said it isn't an issue of contempt.

"Frankly they are a prerequisite to us being in this court at all," Golden said. "I want to stress this judge, Louisville Metro seeks to work with you in a collaborative measure in resolving the issues as they present themselves. But, this is a contempt proceeding and before you have a contempt proceeding there must be facts and circumstances that show that these individuals, these five people that you have named willfully knew of an order and willfully disregarded an order."

"Mr. Bolton is responsible for all of those who employees and those who he oversees," Burke said, disagreeing with the motion to dismiss. "The real point here to gain compliance and put an end to this chaos because it creates a conundrum for witnesses, prosecutors, officers."

"Judge, I think there a fundamental misapprehension of what we are here for," Golden countered. "These jailers are responsible via statute for certain things."

The case would be delayed due to a pending lawsuit and audit against Metro Corrections, Burke said. She added that cases of violated may be added because the problems continue.

"People are coming out of the woodwork since I brought this action advising me of the complaints they have that are similar," Burke said.

"My clients represent and handle 34,000 different inmates that run through the system every year," Golden responded. "There are a quarter of a million different commitment orders per year that issued in regards to the 34,000 people. In a vast majority, I would say a substantial majority, in fact almost the entire issue there have been no errors."

Golden added that Corrections staff are dealing with more cases of addiction, treatment, housing, and overcrowding.

"They are getting more inmates placed in their custody and yet on a day to day basis they deal with those cases very well," Golden said.

Burke said the issue can't be overlooked because of overcrowding adding that the issues are not isolated.

"If you want to address the case and talk about how much Metro Corrections is overcrowded and how they are doing so well, then I'm going to address you otherwise," Burke said.

"You can't hold the modification of processes to make a better system against the folks who are trying to help this out," Golden responded.

No final decision came from Monday's hearing, they'll be back in court for another status conference on July 13.

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