Category Archives: In the News

60 Points Defined by Judge Olu Stevens

Judge Olu Stevens
Judge Olu Stevens

Earlier this year, I released my 60 practice points based on my experience on the bench and presiding over nearly 100 felony criminal and complex civil jury trials.  I have elaborated on a select few in a series I have named 60 Points Defined.  I will select others in advance of the NBI Seminar in June and post them at olustevens.com.  I will also release an additional 40 practice points at the Seminar.

To Whom it May Concern (and to others who will not admit concern with me:))

Judge Olu Stevens
Judge Olu Stevens

When someone sends me an email which begins, “I haven’t read your posts” and then proceeds to criticize them, I’m pretty sure he read my posts.:)  Others have urged me to be more specific regarding my concerns about the LBA in light of falsehoods perpetuated by those with hidden agendas.  So I will.

Reasonable minds can differ about the manner, method and timing of evaluations.  I continue to recognize the value of them, despite my concerns.  But at the heart of my concern are the inequities that exist between dues-paying members of the LBA.  Traditionally, judges were honorary members of the LBA.  They did not pay dues and therefore had no voice in the “affairs of the association” under the LBA bylaws.  Then the LBA decided that judges would be charged dues, but maintain their classification as “honorary members”.  As such, judges are still prohibited from having a “vote” or voice “in the affairs of the association” according to the bylaws.  In this regard, the LBA stands alone among local bar associations in this region.  The bar associations in Cincinnati, Nashville, Indianapolis and Columbus have no such restrictions on the right of dues-paying member judges to have a “vote in the affairs of the association.”

I believe what I have described above to be unjust.  Not because I want a leadership role in the association myself.  I’ve been there and I’ve done that.  But I do want a vote on issues that affect me as a member.  I believe it is fair to provide equal rights to all dues-paying members of the association, even if those members have titles and wear black robes.

For this position, this individual labeled me as “angry” and told me I am impediment to progress.  I assure you, I am not angry.  Rather I am determined to obtain what is right.  There is a difference.  Anger eventually subsides.  Right remains until the unjust come to their senses.  The individual who sent me an email told me he was emailing me because he is my friend.  I have a feeling he wasn’t being truthful about that one either.:)

Please don’t misinterpret.  I don’t speak for “likes” or support.  I speak because I believe it to be right.  As far as similarly situated individuals who are content, or at least content to remain silent, that is their business.  This is mine.  I continue my faith in fair-minded people who do, not because it is popular or comfortable, but because it is just.  Thanks for reading.  Even if you never acknowledge you did.

Sincerely,

Judge Olu A. Stevens, 30th Judicial Circuit, Division 6 and Past President of the Louisville Bar Association

Batson’s Blindspot

Judge Olu Stevens
Judge Olu Stevens

Trial lawyers make every effort to preserve issues for appeal.  Yet some continue to miss opportunities to assert Batson challenges.  One of the points I made in my article for the KJA was the political correctness and fear of offending others has minimized the usefulness of Batson and its progeny.  If you are afraid of the implications of asserting a Batson challenge and your fear prevents you from doing so, you are doing your client a disservice.  By the very nature of Batson challenges, they cannot be addressed as palpable error.  Arguably, the failure to assert a Batson challenge cannot be addressed by RCr 11.42 motion or by a legal malpractice in the civil context.  If true, the effect of an attorney’s failure to assert a Batson challenge during trial is to forever waive it.  During a recent trial in my court, the Commonwealth exercised its discretion in favor of eliminating three of the remaining four African American jurors by peremptory strike.  It is not of consequence to the Batson analysis, but I will tell you that the Defendant was an African American male.  Defense counsel did not assert a Batson challenge.  One African American female juror was selected for the fourteen-person jury, but as a result of the clerk’s random draw, she was eliminated at the conclusion of the trial.  The all white, twelve-person jury convicted the Defendant on all counts.  What difference did counsel’s failure to assert a Batson challenge have on the outcome of the trial?  The answer is none that I can discern.  But that is not the point.  Am I saying the Defendant did not receive a fair trial?  The answer is of course I am not saying that.  But that is not the point either.  Consider the following:  Would counsel ever forget to make a motion for directed verdict at the close of the Commonwealth’s case?  I think not.  Then why would counsel fail to assert a Batson challenge when the Commonwealth eliminated 75% of the available African American jurors by peremptory strike?  Interestingly, counsel did make a record of what jurors he would have struck by peremptory should I have granted two of his cause motions.

My opinion is that it is incumbent upon counsel to make a Batson challenge whenever the opposing party has eliminated a majority of jurors within a protected class.  There is no legitimate reason not to make a challenge under these circumstances.  If it makes it more palatable, think of it this way:  It is not a matter of attributing motive to opposing counsel.  It is a matter of protecting the client’s rights on appeal.  In that sense, it should be done as a matter of course.

LBA President’s Page March 2006

Judge Olu Stevens
Judge Olu Stevens

Eight years ago, I wrote the LBA President’s Page March 2006 while I was serving as President of the Louisville Bar.  Paragraphs 4 and 7 are of particular note.  My feelings about the evaluation and the responsibilities of bar leadership haven’t changed.

Judge Olu Stevens: Fear is Not a Valid Defense

Judge Olu Stevens
Judge Olu Stevens

Kentucky New Era newspaper January 23, 2014 full article and photo.

Judge: Fear is Not a Valid Defense

Jefferson Circuit Judge Olu Stevens Visits Hopkinsville and Receives the Key to the City

Judge Olu Stevens
Judge Olu Stevens receives the Key to the City from Hopkinsville Mayor Dan Kemp

Hopkinsville, Ky. Jefferson Circuit Judge Olu Stevens was the keynote speaker for the 20th Annual African American Breakfast in Hopkinsville, Kentucky on February 22, 2014.  The event was sponsored by the Modernette Club, Inc. of Hopkinsville.  The Mayor of Hopkinsville, Dan Kemp, Christian County Circuit Judges Jason Fleming, Andrew Self, and John Atkins, Christian County District Judges Arnold Lynch and James Adams, County Judge Executive Steve Tribble, Hopkinsville Councilman Wendell Lynch, Bardstown Mayor Bill Sheckles and Radcliff Councilman Stan Holmes were among the elected officials in attendance.  Judge Stevens spoke about the history of African American judges and current events involving the killing of young black men. “My intended topic was the History of African American judges and lawyers, but I had some things on my heart and I had to give them voice. I am a judge, but I am also a concerned father and citizen” said Judge Stevens.  The breakfast attendance was over 400 people.  Judge Stevens urged the audience to be aware of the import of so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws and to speak to issues when they arise.  Quoting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Stevens said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”  Judge Stevens was welcomed to Hopkinsville on Friday with a tour and a welcome reception in his honor.  Mayor Kemp presented Judge Stevens with the key to the city of Hopkinsville upon conclusion of his remarks. “I am extremely grateful to Mayor Kemp, the Modernette Club, my colleagues in Christian County and the people of Hopkinsville for the warm welcome my wife and I received” said Judge Stevens.  “It was an experience I will never forget.”

60 Practice Pointers by Judge Olu Stevens

Judge Olu Stevens
Judge Olu Stevens

Since I assumed the bench in July 2009, I have accumulated a list of hundreds of practice pointers based on the many hearings and trials over which I have presided.  These are the top sixty of them. There are plenty more to say about them, but here are the basics:

There is a difference between discoverability and admissibility and other practice tips

Circuit Judge Olu Stevens’ Statement on the Upcoming Judicial Elections

Judge Olu Stevens
Judge Olu Stevens

In the days before the judicial candidate-filing deadline, I received a number of troubling calls concerning our judicial races.  The callers informed me of a concern among certain judges that a consortium of African-American lawyers was planning to run against them.  I wasn’t told who the judges were, but I dismissed the concern as silly.  I was assured, however, that the concern was genuine. Wow. Really?  The concern should have been about any potential challenge regardless of the race of the challenger.  I thought it another example of the unnecessary infusion of race into the judicial/political spectrum.  I have personal experience with this issue.  In 2010, during my first election for Circuit Judge, my opponent placed an advertisement in The Courier Journal.  The ad featured my photograph of me shaking hands with President Barack Obama.  The actual handshake was cropped out, leaving an image of the two of us face to face.  The name “OLU STEVENS” was printed in bold on the top of the photo. The ad contained a comparison between my opponent and me.  He emphasized that he was from Kentucky and I was not and that he was not accepting contributions, while I was accepting contributions, to include those from Washington, D.C.  The ad also included a very small photo of my opponent in the corner.  The intent of the ad was obvious and shameful.

In the aftermath of the ad, many other judicial candidates privately expressed their disgust.  They were careful, however, not to express any public opinion.  The issue of race is so toxic. Candidates seeking election to public office dare not discuss it.  Those concerned citizens who have seen the effect of such ads in the past were vocal in their disapproval.  Some wrote editorials that were printed in The Courier Journal.  Still others offered their support to my campaign through financial contributions or prominent yard sign locations.  A group of retired judges graciously endorsed me as part of a full-page ad in the The Courier Journal the Sunday before the election.  They endorsed me because they felt that I was the more qualified candidate in my race, but also in part to send a message that tactics such as those employed by my opponent were unacceptable in Jefferson County judicial races.  I was extremely heartened by these acts.  They justified my confidence in the people of Louisville.

I address this issue now because I do not want race baiting to be part of this election cycle- or any future election cycle for that matter.  I am concerned that the same fear that caused individuals to inject race into the candidate filing process will motivate them to engage in the type of behavior I faced in the closing days of my last campaign.  It is unacceptable for any judge or judicial candidate to engage in, authorize or turn a blind eye to such tactics.  We owe our profession and our community better.  If allowed to gain any measure of success, such tactics will take us back to an era when it was commonplace to use race as a basis to differentiate between candidates for judicial office.  Judicial elections should be about qualifications and hard work.  We must stand ready to confront the unnecessary and gratuitous infusion of race into judicial campaigns.  I will not remain silent if a judge or judicial candidate steps over the line.  There is too much at stake.

Judge Olu A. Stevens is the presiding judge in the 30th Judicial Circuit, Division 6.  He was appointed to the bench in July 2009 and first elected in November 2010.  Judge Stevens will run unopposed for an eight-year term in November 2014.  Judge Stevens is a former member of Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC and former President of the Louisville Bar Association.  In 2012, he served as Adjunct Professor of Criminal Procedure II: Courtroom Process at the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law.

 

 

Circuit Judge Olu Stevens to Run Unopposed for Re-Election

Judge Olu Stevens
Judge Olu Stevens

Louisville, Ky.  Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens will run unopposed for re-election.  Tuesday, January 28, 2014 was the candidate filing deadline.  Stevens, who filed for re-election on November 6, 2013, will be on the  ballot for an eight-year term this fall.  “I love this job and I am delighted that I will have the opportunity to serve the citizens of Jefferson County for a second term” said Judge Stevens.  Judge Stevens was appointed to the Jefferson Circuit bench on January 1, 2009 by Governor Steve Beshear.  He was elected in November of 2010.  Judge Stevens succeeded Judge Martin McDonald, who retired in the spring of 2009.  “I feel extremely fortunate to run unopposed and I think it is a testament to the good work I have been doing on the bench, but I am mindful that several of my colleagues are also doing good work and face opposition” said Judge Stevens.  “I want to thank all those who have supported me, especially my wife, Raymonda, and my good friends, Bryan Coomer, Dwight Haygood, J. Allan Cobb and Jeff McClain.  They have been with me since day one.”  Judge Stevens will begin his eight year term in January, 2015.

Judge Olu Stevens Speaks at Brown Mackie Louisville

Judge Olu Stevens
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.