A lawsuit attempting to block two district judges from barring a public defender from practicing law in their courtroom has been officially dismissed.
Judge Paul Braden agreed Monday morning to sign an agreed order dismissing the case against district court judge Dan Ballou and Cathy Prewitt. Both sides agreed to drop the case because the lawyer in question has since moved to China rendering the matter a moot point.
“I’m glad it’s over with. It’s a bad situation, and I’m glad it’s finished,” Prewitt said Monday afternoon.
Prewitt said she was surprised when the lawsuit was initially filed, but not by the outcome of it. “I was surprised that she pushed it this far,” Prewitt said.
On Dec. 10, the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy filed suit in Whitley Circuit Court asking Braden to in effect overrule an administrative order issued by Ballou and Prewitt on Nov. 3, barring then public defender Carol R. Camp from appearing in district court.
“DPA (Department of Public Advocacy) believes that this order was entered not because of any improprieties on the part of Ms. Camp, but because … Ms. Camp has encountered systematic and persistent resistance from respondents to permit her to even attempt to make legal arguments and objections on behalf of her clients in Whitley Juvenile Court,” the lawsuit stated.
“If respondents illegal order is allowed to stand, it will have a chilling effect not only on all DPA attorneys who practice before the Whitley District Courts, but on all attorneys who practice before the Whitley District Courts.”
The lawsuit claimed that the district court judges had no jurisdiction to ban a licensed attorney from practicing in that court, and that Ballou and Prewitt stepped outside their jurisdiction in doing so.
During a January hearing in the case, Braden ruled that judges have a right to bar an attorney from practicing law in their courtroom provided they have sufficient reason for doing so.
Braden agreed to hold a hearing so lawyers on both sides could present arguments over whether Ballou and Prewitt were justified in the barring of Camp from their courtrooms, but the hearing never occurred.
The primary reason for barring Camp from district court was that she was constantly undermining the judges, Prewitt said.
“She would tell the kids we couldn’t do what we did. She was just constantly questioning our authority, and you can’t work with a situation like that,” Prewitt said. “It is hard enough dealing with a teenager under good circumstances, but when you have a lawyer standing there saying, ‘The judge can’t do that,’ then it makes it even more difficult.
“We tried to deal with it in house. We had a meeting with her boss, and her, and asked them to deal with the situation, and they chose not to, so ultimately that is why we took the drastic measure that we did take.”
Prewitt said she knows of other instances where lawyers have been banned from court, but that it is extremely rare, and something she hopes she will never have to do again.
“It was a drastic situation. Judge Ballou and I both talked, and we had to do what was best for our kids, and she was not best for our kids,” Prewitt said. “Overall, we have fantastic lawyers. Our public defenders are great. She was just a big exception to what we normally deal with. Roger Gibbs and Ron Findell, they are fantastic people to work with.”
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