- Associated Press - Monday, January 9, 2017

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A family court judge in Lexington was reprimanded Monday for requiring divorcing couples with children - but not childless couples - to participate in special hearings to determine if their marriages were irretrievably broken.

Fayette Family Court Judge Timothy Philpot received the public reprimand in an order issued by the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission. It found that Philpot violated judicial canons, including one requiring that judges perform their duties “fairly and impartially.”

“By statute, that can all take place,” said the conduct commission’s chairman, Stephen Wolnitzek. “The concern was it was only being done in cases in which there were minor children involved.”

Philpot, a former state senator and veteran judge, cooperated with the investigation and agreed to the commission’s order. He said Monday that he’ll now hold these hearings in every divorce case that comes before him, regardless of whether children are involved.

“Marriage is special to everyone and every spouse should be heard if they believe there is hope for their marriage,” the judge said in a statement. “So, ultimately, I agree with the idea to have the hearing in every case.”

Philpot said research shows that children of divorced parents are at a much greater risk for “every negative behavior possible.”

“They are more likely to … perform poorly in school, be addicted to drugs or alcohol, be victimized by neglect or abuse, have earlier pregnancy, threaten to commit suicide, and eventually the cycle of negativity continues,” he said.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported (https://bit.ly/2iwF2ah) that Philpot wrote a novel last year that tells the story of a judge who orders controversial hearings to delay the divorce of a couple with children in hopes that they will reconcile.

He told the newspaper in mid-2016 that he had recently begun short informal “irretrievably broken hearings” in divorce cases involving children.

Philpot also was reprimanded by the judicial disciplinary commission for providing facts about cases before him to an unnamed “third party” for use in research and teaching. Those facts were not part of the public record, the commission said.

The judge was providing the information to a college professor, Wolnitzek said, but he didn’t identify the professor.

The commission said Philpot violated two other canons. One prohibits judges from using their office to advance the private interests of others. The other bars judges from disclosing or using nonpublic information for any purpose unrelated to judicial duties.


Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader, https://www.kentucky.com

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