I Apologize, But I Have a Batson Challenge by Judge Olu Stevens as published in January/February 2014 issue of The Advocate by Kentucky Justice Association.
Louisville, KY. Jan. 11, 2014. Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens’ Statement on the 2013 Jefferson Circuit Court global jury trial statistics:
Here are the 2013 Jefferson Circuit Court global jury trial statistics. My division stands on top in number of jury trials. Double the average in 65 days in trial. I think that is an indicator of efficiency and I thank the parties, the attorneys, the jurors and my staff for that. The lawyers select the trial dates and I am not presented with motions to continue very often. I enjoy presiding over trials, but I do not preside solely for my enjoyment. The work needs to be done and my purpose is to do it. The truth is jury trials are time-consuming and lend themselves to an unpredictable schedule. You need only ask my wife and kids or the many individuals on whom I have been forced to cancel lunch and dinner plans. I believe in making myself available to preside over jury trials when my colleagues are occupied in other trials. These numbers reflect my commitment to the work of a trial judge. Three years running, I have led the Jefferson Circuit Court in number of jury trials. 27 in 2011 and 23 in 2012. I acknowledge the number is but one measure of a trial judge. Proper court management and leadership involves more. That is why in the next few days I will be releasing the global numbers on total number of cases pending in Jefferson Circuit Court. What they reflect is the concerted effort on the part of my staff and I to manage our entire caseload and devote proper time and attention to the more labor-intensive matters. The result is, despite an equal distribution of caseload, my division has one of the lowest number of pending cases in Jefferson Circuit Court. In fact, save the well-deserved case reduction for our chief judge, only one division has a consistently lower pending caseload than Division 6, the division where I preside. I leave you with this: The global trial numbers and pending case numbers reflect that I have led a truly coordinated team effort by my Staff Attorney, Kathleen Jones, my Deputy Sheriff, John Winstead, my Bench Clerk, Laura McNeil and my secretary, Judy Smith. They have done outstanding work for me and in turn, the residents of Jefferson County. I am proud of our accomplishments. Special thanks to our outstanding Circuit Court Administrator Eric Darnell for his diligent efforts in compiling the global statistics.
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 Court Judge Olu Stevens issued the following statement on his social media in advance of the New Year:
I hope everyone had a nice Christmas or holiday, if you do not celebrate Christmas. With no docket until the New Year, I decided to take a much-needed break from work. I have dedicated this period of time to rest and reflection. Perhaps more than any year before, 2013 has taught me what is important in my personal life and my professional life. I have appreciated your very kind comments about my posts. Someone recently told me that they were thought provoking. While he said this was a positive thing, we know that “thought provoking” is not always positive. Like many people, I have my detractors. And that’s okay. At least they’re reading my posts.:) Indeed, I have used this medium in a different way than just about any other judge. I have always seen it for what it is: A tremendous opportunity to speak to people about issues of significance. Whether addressing the handling of certain local legal cases (not before me) to the Trayvon Martin investigation to my experience serving on jury duty, my comments have never been borne of any personal animus toward anyone, rather they are prompted by my concern for our system of justice- and the public perception of it. In 2014, there will be more issues of importance to the legal community. My belief is that our community lacks leadership on these issues. I think this void finds its origin in judges’ belief that we need only be of the people during election time and at all other times we should remain distinct. I reject this notion, in words and in action. I have demonstrated it on this medium and others. I believe in being careful with my words, but I also believe in showing I care through words- and action. In 2014, I intend to continue to address issues of concern to our legal community and our community in general. As always I will be careful not to compromise my role, but I am determined to fulfill my purpose. For those reading this, I want to thank you for taking your time to do so. Many of you are serving important roles in our community and we are better for it. I hope 2014 brings you many blessings. Happy New Year.
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.”