A Montgomery Family Court judge has been reprimanded and suspended without pay after the Alabama Court of the Judiciary (COJ) decided on her punishment Friday afternoon, following a week of testimony.
Judge Anita Kelly‘s suspension will last 180 days, but can be reversed at the 90-day mark if she follows specific instructions from the court.
“There was no evidence introduced that Judge Kelly was ever involved in any sort of graft, corruption, scandal, or wrongful conduct other than the alleged pattern and practice delays,” the court’s order stated. “There is no evidence indicating that she intentionally did anything to harm anyone, most importantly the children impacted by her court.”
In August of 2017, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission filed a complaint against Kelly, accusing her of repeated violations of the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics, citing more than six hundred family court cases showing what they believed as Kelly’s inability to handle her docket.
She was accused of “unreasonable and unjustifiable delay in handling her docket in Family Court,” and faced six charges according to WSFA, including:
Delay in Issuing TPR orders-Failing or refusing to timely enter orders within 30 days of completing trials on petitions for termination of parental rights
Delay in Completing TPR Trials-Failing or refusing to complete the trial on a petition for termination of parental rights within 90 days of perfecting service
Failure to Manage Dockets-Failing or refusing to manage court dockets to decide pending matters in a timely manner-failing or refusing to allocate sufficient time on her dockets to hear pending matters in one setting, regularly continuing dockets, unreasonable delays in setting timely hearings, unreasonable delays in resetting continued trial settings-preventing the timely resolution of disputes that profoundly affected the lives of those, in particular children, whose interests were before her court
Delay in Final Divorce Decrees and Modifications-Unreasonable and unjustifiable delay or failure to rule on completed applications for uncontested-divorce complaints and requests for modification of divorce decrees, many of which included agreed-up proposed orders, thereby preventing the timely resolution of disputes that profoundly affected the lives of those, in particular children, whose interests were before her court
Comprehensive Delay, Including but not Limited to Matters Charged in Charges 1 – 4-By failing to take care of the business of the court in a timely, prompt, and efficient manner, as set out in the above-stated facts-including but not limited to TPR petitions, dependency cases, delinquency cases, child support matters, PFA petitions, uncontested divorce cases, modifications of divorce decrees, and such simple matters as affidavits of substantial hardship, simple motions, party agreements, and considerations of referee recommendations-thereby preventing the timely resolution of disputes that profoundly affected the lives of those, in particular children, who interests were before her court
Loss of Juvenile Treatment Funds-By failing or refusing to make a timely recommendation to the Montgomery County Commission for a Davis Treatment Center vendor to provide local treatment and care for certain juvenile defendants and thereby losing funds to continue such treatment and care for over four months.
Kelly has been off the bench with pay since the original filings in August, and will be reinstated on May 14 serving without pay starting on that date.
During the trial, she maintained her innocence, denying any wrongdoing, but the Judicial Inquiry Commission produced multiple witnesses to testify to the delays and failed attempts to help Kelly amend her docket, including retired Montgomery Circuit Judge Charles Price.
Price, who was the presiding judge while Kelly was working in the family court, testified that he received complaints, verbally and in writing, from litigants and attorneys about Kelly and the way she ran her courtroom. Price said he spoke to Kelly about the complaints and even showed her, but it produced no changes.
“It became abundantly obvious that she was resentful of my help,” Price told WSFA.