Family court candidates discuss standards, ethics
Published 12:25 pm Friday, October 28, 2016
Touting their individual experiences as family law attorneys, the three candidates for family court judge — Elizabeth Elkins Bond, Joan Deaton Grefer and Kimberly Blair Walson — addressed topics from enforcing the law to candidate standards during the candidates forum Thursday night.
The candidates fielded three audience questions, including their own commitment to following the rules.
Bond said she’s committed to following the law in personal life.
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“Other than a traffic ticket, I don’t think I’ve ever been on the other side of the law,” she said.
Grefer said the role of family court judge is to enforce the laws of Kentucky.
“We have justices all the way up the United States Supreme Court who are giving us guidance, and it’s our responsiblity to enforce and implement those laws for the people that come into our courtroom.
Blair said once candidates sign up for a race, they’re expected to adhere to even more rules and laws.
“We not only have to be law-abiding citizens, but we have to follow the laws with regards to our campaigns and the way we run our campaigns,” she said. “I’m a rule follower myself. I believe in that wholehearteadly and I believe the rules and laws that are set forth in the court should be adhered to by the citizens of the community and by the people and parties present in the courtroom.”
Forum moderator Graham Johns asked the candidates a personal question regarding his own experience with the family court system. As a 7-year-old, he was asked to speak to a judge by himself during this parents’ divorce. He asked candidates if they would ever conduct such meetings with children.
The candidates each expressed a desire to protect children from the courtroom and proceedings as much as possible.
“Sadly, for me, I was involved in that as well,” Walson said. “My parents almost divorced when I was young. I was drug to a court room and forced to stay there all day because the rules weren’t quite as specific as they are now. The way that we’re supposed to do it these days, is if at some point a child is to be a testifying witness, it’s supposed to be on some sort of recording.”
“I think it’s best to keep them out of the courtroom to the extent we’re able to do it, but in order to get the right result for that family, sometimes it requires the children’s testimony because they’re the ones in the home and they’re ones who know what’s going on.”
Grefer said she has never asked a child to be a witness during a case.
“I have done everything in my power to protect children from that very situation,” she said. “There are cases, however, when children do have to come into court to testify, specifically in situations where the children have been victims of abuse or neglect. I think all of us have taken the same position, that we would do everything we can to make the child as comfortable as possible.”
Bond said testifying in court can be traumatic for children, and she would also make efforts to make the experience more comfortable.
“Over the last 14 years, I spent about 60 percent of my practice representing children who came into the court system,” she said. “Some of that did not require children to testify but often times it did. More often than not, we had guardians ad litem to represent the children for those cases. I tried almost always to take the child into the courtroom, talk about the situation, talk about the questions and make them well prepared for that.”
In regards to running their campaigns, the candidates said judges should be held to a higher standard than other candidates.
Contact Whitney Leggett at firstname.lastname@example.org.