District Court Judge Cathy E. Prewitt has agreed to a 7-day suspension after a preliminary investigation by the Commonwealth of Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission into her actions in a 2014 case in Whitley County.
According to the order of suspension, Prewitt violated the Code of Judicial Conduct in a case before her in Whitley County last year.
On May 12, 2014 Judge Prewitt set a bond of $25,000 in a case involving Steven Hinkle. Later that same day the Judge learned that the defendant’s mother, Alma Ruth Hinkle, had arrived at the Circuit Clerk’s office to pay the bond and ordered the bond increased to $50,000 without notice or hearing for the defendant.
Upon learning of the bond increase, the defendant’s mother called the Judge a “bitch.”
That afternoon in an arraignment hearing, Judge Prewitt asked the mother about the derogatory statement. Alma Hinkle admitted to making the statement, after which Judge Prewitt found her in contempt of court and ordered her to serve 24-hours in jail, again without a hearing or allowing Mrs. Hinkle legal counsel.
The commission found Judge Prewitt violated four instances of the Code of Judicial Conduct by “failing to maintain high standards of conduct and uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary,” “failing to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary,” “failing to be faithful to the law by raising Steven Hinkle’s bond without a hearing and holding Alma Hinkle in contempt of court without providing her notice, an opportunity to have legal counsel present, and a hearing before an impartial fact finder,” and “failing to accord Steven Hinkle the right to be heard with legal counsel prior to increasing his bond and failing to accord Alma Hinkle the right to be heard without legal counsel prior to holding her in contempt of court.”
After the preliminary investigation into the matter, Judge Prewitt agreed to waive formal proceedings and accepted a 7-day suspension from August 27 through September 2. The report also stipulated Judge Prewitt fully cooperated with the investigation, had no prior infractions and stated the offending conduct would not be repeated.
Prewitt was appointed to the seat in June 2003 after the death of District Court Judge David Burton. She was elected to the office in November of the same year, and has served in that capacity since.