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.
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.
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.
I Apologize, But I Have a Batson Challenge by Judge Olu Stevens: ”In addition to providing a litigation primer, my intention was to make a broader statement about the composition of our juries. Particularly, I sought to emphasize the importance of juries that are representative of our community. The issue is not diversity for diversity’s sake, rather it is one of public confidence in our system of justice.”- Judge Olu Stevens
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.