Gov. Beshear: "No More Highly-Qualified Person" than Judge Olu Stevens
LOUISVILLE, Ky. January 27, 2014. In follow up to his article on race and jury selection, Jefferson Circuit Judge Olu Stevens visited Brown Mackie College Louisville to speak on jury selection and Batson issues. Judge Stevens gave an overview of the jury selection process and discussed the Batson challenge steps. He also discussed public access to the courts and the basics of giving opening statement. Judge Stevens gave the students copies of his article, his order on jury selection and his order on public access to the courts. ”I always enjoy speaking at Brown Mackie Louisville” said Judge Stevens. ”The students are engaged and serious about learning. Thanks to my friend, Professor Kate Eberle for inviting me back.” Copies of the Judge Stevens article, originally published in the Jan/Feb. issue of the KJA Advocate, as well copies of the orders given to the students are available at olustevens.com.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens will be the keynote speaker at the 20th Annual African American Heritage Breakfast in Hopkinsville, Kentucky on February 22, 2014. The event will be held at the James E. Bruce Convention Center. Judge Stevens will speak on the history of African American judges and lawyers in the Commonwealth. The Breakfast is an event sponsored by the Modernette Civic Club of Hopkinsville. “The community of Christian County is looking forward to Judge Stevens’ visit”, said Billie Todd, President of the Modernette Civic Club. Past keynote speakers at the Breakfast include Dr. Mary Silas, President of Kentucky State University (2013) and John Johnson, Director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights (2012). The Modernette Club is a group of business and professional women whose mission is to fulfill civic obligations in the community through education and the arts. “I very much look forward to visiting Hopkinsville for the first time and speaking of the history of lawyers and judges in the Commonwealth. I am honored that the people of Hopkinsville have invited me to be part of this wonderful event”, said Judge Stevens. Approximately 400 people are expected to attend the Breakfast.
Louisville, KY. Jan. 8, 2014. It was announced yesterday that Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens presided over the most jury trials in Jefferson Circuit Court in 2013. This makes three consecutive years in which Judge Stevens has led the Jefferson Circuit Court in number of jury trials. During that three-year span, Judge Stevens has presided over 71 jury trials, including a high of 27 in 2011. When asked about the numbers, Stevens said, “There is no doubt I am proud of the number, but its not simply the number I’m proud of. I am proud of the manner in which my staff and I have gone about the people’s business in the trial courts. We have gained valuable experience.” The Jefferson Circuit Court has jurisdiction over criminal felony cases and civil cases where amounts in excess of $5,000 are in controversy. ”Jury trials provide great experience in dealing with a variety of issues. Interesting evidentiary issues frequently arise during the course of trial and that is part of what I enjoy. In addition, jury trials provide the public with a view of what we are doing in the trial courts. It is extremely important that we put our best foot forward and that is what I always try to do.” said Stevens.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. Jefferson Circuit Judge Olu Stevens now has the distinction of having served as a juror in Jefferson County, Kentucky. Contrary to popular perception, judges are not exempt from jury service. Like other residents of Jefferson County, judges can be summoned for jury service. Judge Stevens just completed his two-week term. During his term of service, the Judge was called to be part of two Circuit Court jury panels and was selected for the jury that considered two District Court matters. Judge Stevens served as foreperson of the jury. Judge Stevens experienced all that jury service entails, including the waiting in the the jury pool room. He made the most of the time speaking to the entire jury pool, personally greeting fellow jurors and making inquiry about ways the jury system can be improved. ”I learned that we have dedicated members of our community who understand the importance of jury service.” Judge Stevens said. At Judge Stevens’ request, jury administration did not inform the other jurors that Judge Stevens was one of the jurors. He wanted the opportunity to experience jury service as any resident of Jefferson County would. However, disclosure proved to be very helpful to the process and many jurors showed their appreciation to Judge Stevens for sitting with them in the jury pool room and for waiting outside of courtrooms to be called in as jurors. ”It was quite an experience. And it was my one and only experience of what it feels like to be the most popular kid in the class.” joked Stevens. Judge Stevens was part of jury panels before two of his Circuit Court colleagues, who to their credit, treated the Judge just like any other juror. One of the most interesting parts of the two weeks was the day when Judge Stevens began the morning in the jury pool room and having been excused for the day, presided over a two-day jury trial that began later that morning. ”As judges, we have to do our duty. We have to do what we ask our fellow citizens to do everyday. It is a matter of integrity and fairness.” said Stevens.
In Jefferson County, jurors are summoned for a two-week term of jury duty. During that period, there may be days that jurors are not called, but they must be available for the two-week period. Deferments may be granted upon application to the Chief Circuit Judge. The presiding judge may grant hardship release on a case by case basis. If one is called for service at a particularly inconvenient time, the juror may request a deferment.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. Jefferson Circuit Judge Olu Stevens has written an article on race and jury selection for the Kentucky Justice Association publication, The Advocate. The article, entitled ”I Apologize, But I Have a Batson Challenge: Approaching Issues of Race in Jury Selection” will run in The Advocate’s end-of-the-year edition. Batson v. Kentucky prohibits discrimination against jurors on the basis of race and it provides a process for challenging the propriety of peremptory challenges based on race. “I hope that attorneys will be able to use the article as a practical tool for dealing with Batson issues at trial.” said Judge Stevens. Once published, a copy of Judge Stevens’ article will be available here at olustevens.com.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens appeared on the Simmons Saturday Morning Solutions with DeVone Holt radio show (WLOU) on November 30, 2013. Judge Stevens talked about the goal of his new initiative, the Expanded Horizons Project and his intention to become more involved with some of the young men on his docket. The EHP is comprised of 12-15 individuals who are currently on probation in Judge Stevens’ court. The participants hear from Judge Stevens and other speakers on a variety of subjects with the goal of assisting them in becoming productive members of community. ”There has to be more to my involvement than just seeing them every once in a while and sending them to prison when they mess up.” said Judge Stevens. Saturday Morning Solutions Host, inspirational speaker and author, DeVone Holt served as the guest speaker at the EHP November docket. He delivered a compelling and informative message to the participants. Judge Stevens believes it essential to expose the young men to high quality speakers who are active members of our community. ”The stakes are high and we cannot afford to fail.” The next EHP is scheduled for December 18, 2013. The guest speaker will be Andre Wilson.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. On Wednesday November 27, 2013, Jefferson Circuit Judge Olu Stevens made the following statement to the men of the Expanded Horizons Project docket:
“People ask me what is the goal of the Expanded Horizons Project? What is the EHP all about? I tell them that some people approach things without focus on what it takes to complete a task. They want to achieve the ends. Yesterday. They don’t want to do the work. Some of you were asking me on the first day when it was going to be over. You were making excuses about not being able to attend on a monthly basis. You’re losing focus. That’s why we have you establish goals and have you let us know what steps you intend to take to achieve your goals. And then we will follow up with you to make sure you have completed the steps you have identified. I believe there is some purpose for your existence. You just have to find it.
I once heard a speech about the dash. The dash represents the period of time between the day you are born and the day you die. The question for us all is what are you going to do with your dash? The EHP is about answering that question. The EHP is not about temporary solutions. It is about permanent employment and permanent fixes in your life. It is about a life free of drugs, crime, courts and lawyers. That is what the EHP is about. And we will proceed in a manner described in the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education. The case refers to implementing a strategy “with all deliberate speed.” It doesn’t necessarily mean quickly. It really means cautiously. “With all deliberate speed” conveys the urgency of the task, but acknowledges that the hill is steep. The task is not going to be accomplished overnight, but we will proceed in a manner that is efficient, understanding the urgency of the task. That is what the EHP is all about. But you must stick with us. You must demonstrate dedication to the task.
One of the things we will be doing is hearing from people that have knowledge about particular areas and they will impart things on you. These things will be part of your toolboxes for success. As part of the EHP, you will hear from successful people, learn from them, question them and then implement those things in your own lives.”
Aren’t judges exempt from jury duty? No, judges are called for jury duty like everyone else. Next week will be my second term of service since I was appointed in 2009. I have had a federal judge on my jury panel twice and an administrative law judge.
Why do you think it’s important for judges to serve on jury duty? Well, I think its important because I always tell jurors that jury service is one of the most important things one can do as a citizen of this country and a resident of our community. Being summoned for jury service gives me an opportunity to put my money where my mouth is so to speak. I think it is important for everyone to see me participating like everyone else. People are sacrificing their personal or professional time to serve. Judges should do the same.
What are you most looking forward to as a juror? I am looking forward to being called up to Circuit Court as part of a panel and participating in the voir dire process. The last time I served, I was never called up to a courtroom. During the past four and a half years, I have learned so much about the process. It will be interesting to see what it is like from a different perspective.
Have you told any of your colleagues you will be serving? And what do they think about it? Yes, I have. I also posted it on Facebook because I thought it important to let people know I can be called like they can. My colleagues think its great. Very few of them have ever been called, but I understand one of my colleagues actually served on a jury. She is my hero! That would be an unbelievable experience.
What are some of the more interesting aspects of jury selection? Well, as a juror, I will likely not be privy to some of the interesting discussions about cause and what we call peremptory strikes. In short, the fact that I am a judge is not a sufficient reason to strike me for cause. There may be other reasons that would rise to level of cause, but they can’t strike me just because I’m a judge. I imagine the parties could agree to strike me because I’m a judge. When the parties exercise their peremptory strikes, they will normally do so privately and as long as they don’t discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity or gender, they can strike a certain number of jurors for any reason at all. I’d be surprised if my juror number was still around after that process.
Tell us about the article you recently wrote about jury selection. I have been working on a number of projects concerning jury selection. I recently completed an article that will run in the KJA publication, The Advocate. It is about application of the principles contained in the landmark case, Batson v. Kentucky. Batson prohibits race discrimination in jury selection. My experience is lawyers do not raise it as often as perhaps they should because the issues are sensitive. My intention is to assist lawyers in making and defending Batson challenges at trial.
FRANKFORT, Ky. Jefferson Circuit Judge Olu Stevens participated in the 2013 Circuit Judges Fall College which took place Nov. 18-20, 2013 in Lexington. The judges received updates on case law and legislation, among other things. The judges also heard from Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr. about trends in the court system. Judge Stevens will be a presenter at the Spring 2014 College.
Louisville, KY. Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens enjoys his job. There is no doubt that the job of a Circuit Court judge involves plenty of reading, study, making evidentiary rulings, presiding at trial, managing administrative issues, among other things. But it also involves community service, speaking to community organizations and yes, performing weddings. ”Being asked to officiate at the biggest event in a couple’s life is the biggest honor a judge can have” says Judge Stevens. ”I am always humbled when someone asks me to perform a marriage ceremony. Every wedding is different and Judge Stevens adapts to the wishes of the couple. ”I think most couples come to me because they would like to keep things simple. I perform a short and sweet ceremony so that the bride and groom can enjoy their special day with their family and friends.” Judge Stevens has performed ceremonies in a variety of venues, including the Louisville Zoo, the FOP Lodge and Cherokee Park. He has even performed several ceremonies in his courtroom. ”I think the most interesting venue at which I have performed a wedding is the Kentucky Reggae Festival. I performed the ceremony right on the stage in front of a few hundred people. It was great!”