Kentucky judge accused of threatening police is suspended

AP News
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Posted: Jun 17, 2015 1:21 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — An eastern Kentucky judge accused of a long list of belligerent behavior including name-calling, unethically presiding over cases, and threatening a "bullet in the head" for the next police officer to pull him over has been suspended.

In all, Pike County Circuit Judge Steven D. Combs faces 10 counts of misconduct. He was temporarily suspended with pay Tuesday pending a final ruling by the state's Judicial Conduct Commission. Another hearing will be held, and the commission's options could include removing Combs from the bench, suspending or reprimanding him.

Combs was disappointed by the suspension, said Steve Ryan, one of his attorneys.

"He works hard," Ryan said Wednesday. "All indications are that he's a good judge when he's on the bench."

The allegations against him include phone calls to Pikeville police — one in December in which Combs is accused of contacting a captain to demand an investigation of automated calls he received regarding drinking and driving during the holidays.

Combs then said the next officer who pulled him over would get a "bullet in the head," according to the commission.

When confronted about the allegations, Combs replied: "I'm elected by the people and not pieces of trash like you all," the commission had said in outlining the allegations. He then referred to the Pikeville Police Department as a "bunch of thieves," it said.

Combs also is accused of making harassing calls to elected officials and city employees. The commission says Combs referred to a city commissioner as a "coke head," the mayor as "fish face" and the city manager as "Dumbo."

Ryan acknowledged that Combs made some phone calls that "he probably shouldn't have made."

Other allegations against Combs include inappropriate calls to an attorney, inappropriate political activity and inappropriate message-board statements. One count alleges that Combs solicited financial contributions for a high school golf team from attorneys who regularly had cases before him.

Some allegations involve Combs in the courtroom. He is accused of presiding over a case despite having an oil and gas lease agreement with a defendant. Combs disclosed that contract and eventually stepped aside from the case, his attorneys noted.

In another case, the commission said, Combs entered an order disqualifying a city commission candidate despite having expressed an interest in the race's outcome and criticizing incumbent candidates.

And in 2012, Combs is accused of threatening legal action against city employees for enforcing an ordinance that resulted in a fine against his mother-in-law, the commission said. He indicated he would rule against the city in any actions to enforce the ordinance, it said.

The city administrator ultimately waived the fine, the panel said.

Ryan noted Wednesday that Combs has been re-elected when on the ballot.

"Citizens of Pike County seem to think he's doing a good job," Ryan said.

Combs serves in the 35th Judicial Circuit, which covers Pike County. He took his place on the bench in 2003, according to the state Administrative Office of the Courts. Circuit judges in Kentucky are paid $124,620 annually.