Alabama judge suspended for sending anonymous letters critical of public officials
Published 9:34 pm Wednesday, December 21, 2022
An Alabama judge has been suspended from the bench after a panel said he violated judicial ethics in 2020 when he mailed an anonymous letter to news outlets and others regarding the behavior of several local officials.
The mailed packages included a recording of a county commissioner using a racial slur.
Blount County Circuit Judge Steven D. King was suspended Tuesday after the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission filed the complaint accusing King of violating the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics. The matter now goes before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, which hears ethics complaints against judges and has the power to sanction judges or remove them from the bench if it determines they violated judicial standards.
However, King, who has served since 2007, is already scheduled to leave office in January.
The letters questioned the fitness for office of a police officer and two county commissioners, according to the filed complaint. The packages included civil case filings and an audio recording of a conversation between the officer and Commissioner Dean Calvert in which Calvert can be heard using a racial slur. The recording was part of a divorce case.
Calvert later apologized in a public video, al.com reported.
The complaint says King had an attorney mail the packages to news outlets and elected officials, including himself. King later called for Calvert to resign based on the contents of the anonymous package, the complaint alleged.
King’s relationship with the commission had been tense at the time of the mailings because of disputes over funding and other issues, according to the complaint.
“Although the conversation and comments captured in the recordings are reprehensible and offensive, Judge King’s conduct of authorizing the anonymous letter, compiling the pleadings … constitutes impropriety, or creates the appearance thereof, and is inappropriate for one that holds judicial office,” the complaint said.