Court of Appeals vacates injunction in Thompson case

Published 1:45 pm Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled Friday that a Clark County judge abused her discretion is granting a temporary injunction for a Winchester police officer and county magistrate.

The order vacated an injunction entered by Clark Circuit Judge Brandy Oliver Brown on June 21 following a hearing.

The case involved Travis Thompson, the City of Winchester and the Clark County Attorney’s Office. Thompson was hired by the Winchester Police Department in August 2018 and was subsequently elected to be a county magistrate in November 2018.

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Clark County Attorney William Elkins has maintained Thompson is holding a municipal office and a county office at the same time, which is prohibited by state law. He has also argued the oath Thompson took as a magistrate supersedes the oath he took as an officer and is not authorized to make arrests.

Friday, a panel of judges Denise Clayton, Sara Walters Combs and Jeff Taylor found two instances where Brown abused her discretion by granting a temporary injunction to maintain the status quo, when there was not a motion filed for said injunction. The restraining order, which put Thompson back on the streets with full authority, then automatically dissolved June 21.

Thompson was placed on administrative duty by the police department earlier this year, after Elkins sent several letters to the city about the situation. Brown issued the temporary restraining order in March.

The panel also said Brown abused her discretion in concluding that Thompson had suffered irreparable harm, which included the lost of overtime.

“Economic loss to Thompson does not constitute irreparable harm,” the judges wrote. Though Thompson’s attorneys argued the department was shorthanded and there would be harm to the department and residents, no testimony was offered and it can not be considered, the judges wrote.

The case itself has been submitted to Brown for a ruling, though none had been issued as of Friday afternoon.

“It answers whether or not Officer Thompson should be carrying out arrests,” Elkins said. “This says he has no temporary legal protection to do so. The second thing is it says the letter written by (Kentucky Attorney General Andy) Beshear’s office is only a letter, not an opinion.”

The letter, written in January before Thompson took office as magistrate, found being a city police officer and county magistrate were not incompatible.

Thompson’s attorney Brian Thomas said Friday afternoon that he had not seen the Court of Appeals order.

With the restraining order dissolved, Elkins said Thompson would have to file criminal complaints for his cases, like other residents. He said that was the procedure put in place prior to the restraining order, but the city and Thompson did not utilize it.

The city and Thompson have maintained the positions are not incompatible and that he maintains his police authority and duties.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email or call 859-759-0051.

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