Kentucky judge removed from bench; found guilty of misconduct

Gentry was found guilty of violating the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct and engaging in misconduct in 10 of the 12 counts charged against her. (Photo: Dawn Gentry/Facebook)
Gentry was found guilty of violating the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct and engaging in misconduct in 10 of the 12 counts charged against her. (Photo: Dawn Gentry/Facebook)(WKYT)
Published: Aug. 31, 2020 at 10:32 AM EDT
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NEWPORT, Ky. (FOX19) - The Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission found Kenton County Family Court Judge Dawn Gentry guilty of 10 of the 12 misconduct charges against her and unanimously voted to remove her from the bench, according to their decision released Monday.

“This case does not involve one or two isolated occurrences, but instead involves a pattern of misconduct and repeated exercise of extremely poor judgment – on and off the Bench -- by the Respondent that continued for over a year, including after Respondent was informed that a complaint was filed with the Commission against her,” the decision states.

“As the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct provides in its Preamble, SCR 4.300, ‘Judges should maintain the dignity of judicial office at all times, and avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in their professional and personal lives. They should aspire at all times to conduct that ensures the greatest public confidence in their independence, impartiality, integrity, and competence.’

“Respondent failed in essentially every respect of this fundamental rule applicable to all judges. After proper notice and hearing, and based on the totality of the circumstances and evidence presented at the Final Hearing and the broad range of repeated and systemic misconduct by Respondent over a substantial period of time, the Commission by a vote of 5-0 orders that Respondent be removed from office.”

The order takes effect in 10 days unless an appeal is filed.

Gentry was found guilty of violating the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct and engaging in misconduct in 10 of the 12 counts charged against her.

The commission said her conduct “violated numerous requirements of the Judicial Canons” including:

  • Failing to perform the duties of her judicial office fairly and impartially (Canon 2, Rule 2.2) and without bias or prejudice (Canon 2, Rule 2.3(A) and (B)).
  • Engaging in conduct that would appear to a reasonable person to be coercive (Canon 3, Rule 3.1(D)).
  • Failing to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and avoiding impropriety and the appearance of impropriety (Canon 1, Rule 1.2).
  • Allowing social, political, financial or other interests or relationships to influence her judicial conduct or judgment (Canon 2, Rule 2.4(B)).
  • Failing to make administrative appointments on the basis of merit and avoiding nepotism, favoritism and unnecessary appointments (Canon 2, Rule 2.13(A)).
  • Failing to require her staff to act in a manner consistent with the judge’s obligations under the Code of Judicial Conduct (Canon 2, Rule 2.12(A)).
  • Approving compensation of appointees beyond the fair value of services rendered (Canon 2, Rule 2.13(B)).
  • Failing to disqualify herself in any proceeding where her impartiality might reasonably be questioned (Canon 2, Rule 2.11(A)).
  • Failing to be patient, dignified, and courteous to those with whom the judge deals in an official capacity, and permitting similar conduct of others subject to her direction and control (Canon 2, Rule 2.8(B)).
  • Failing to cooperate and be candid and honest with judicial disciplinary agencies (Canon 2, Rule 2.16(A)).
  • Retaliating against a person known or suspected to have assisted or cooperated with an investigation of a judge (Canon 2, Rule 2.16(B))

Gentry took the stand in her hearing to defend herself against a dozen charges including having sex with coworkers in her office during work hours and making unwanted advances toward coworkers, court records show.

She also is accused of forcing a coworker to quit in order to make room for another, with whom the commission believes Gentry had a sexual relationship.

Other charges accuse the judge forcing people to donate to her campaign and retaliation if they refused, court documents state.

Gentry has admitted to some allegations, though she denied several of the more serious ones, including that she had a sexual relationship with her former Church Pastor Stephen Penrose.

She did admit to a “close-knit” relationship with him that she agreed “probably (...) violated the code of judicial conduct.”

Gentry is currently suspended with pay.

Former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin tapped Gentry, 39, for the judge’s seat in 2016 to fill a vacancy.

Two years later, she was elected to her current four-year term and is paid $136,900 annually.

Gentry has denied the charges under oath the commission, court documents show.

PREVIOUSLY | Kenton County judge answers charges of misconduct involving sex, Snapchat and special favors | Judicial Conduct Commission temporarily removes NKY judge from bench amid allegations of misconduct

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