A Small Thing

Just a small thing, in a small place in Kentucky.  We don't know how this came to the attention of the Judicial Conduct Commission.  There is no mention of a lawyer for Stephen or Alma Hinkle.  But whoever reported Judge Cathy Prewitt took a stand against injustice.  A very big thing.
On May 12, 2014, Judge Cathy Prewitt, a district judge in southern Kentucky, set a bond for one Stephen Hinkle.  The bond was set at $25,000.  It was a minor act of judicial discretion.  She does this all this time.

Later that day, however, Judge Cathy Prewitt learned that Alma Ruth Hinkle was at the courthouse to pay the bond.  Judge Prewitt notified the clerk's office that the bond was being raised to $50,000.  Just like that.  No notice.  No hearing.  No changed circumstances.  No opportunity to be heard.  Just a small thing, making sure Stephen Hinkle did not get out on pretrial release.

It gets worse.  Upon hearing that the bond had been changed, Alma Hinkle called the judge “a bitch.”  Alma Hinkle was ordered to go to the arraignment docket that afternoon.  Without appointing counsel, or without advising her of her right to remain silent, Judge Prewitt asked Ms. Hinkle whether she had called her a “bitch” or not, and admirably Alma Hinkle admitted that she had.  Judge Prewitt proceeded to hold Alma Hinkle in contempt and ordered her to spend 24 hours in jail.  Again, no hearing, no notice, no counsel.  24 hours.  Just a small amount of time for such egregious conduct as muttering a profanity over an obvious arbitrary act by a judicial officer. 

On the 10th of July, the Judicial Conduct Commission of Kentucky suspended Judge Cathy Prewitt from service for seven days.  Notably, attorney John Prather represented Judge Cathy Prewitt in the proceedings before the Judicial Conduct Commission.  The Commission found that the judge had failed to maintain high standards of conduct, and had failed to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary.  It faulted the judge for raising the bond without a hearing and without providing Stephen Hinkle the right to be heard with a lawyer, and for holding Ms. Hinkle in contempt of court without providing her notice, an opportunity to have an attorney, and an opportunity to have a hearing before a neutral fact finder.

This small incident is a witness to the ordinary injustices occurring in Kentucky and across the nation every day.  A judge who viewed bond as a means for keeping a presumed innocent poor person in jail.  A judge who raised bond without providing basic due process.  A judge who gave no one the fundamental rights to counsel and to be heard.  A clerk who reported back to the judge what a distraught mother had said.  A judge who held the mother in contempt without notice, without an attorney, without a hearing, and required her to spend a day in jail.  Two Hinkles in jail, at the whim of a judge. 

Just a small thing, in a small place in Kentucky.  We don't know how this came to the attention of the Judicial Conduct Commission.  There is no mention of a lawyer for Stephen or Alma Hinkle.  But whoever reported Judge Cathy Prewitt took a stand against injustice.  A very big thing.



December 15, 2018: Registration is now open for NAPD's Spring Events:
  • Executive Leadership Insitute (Frankfort, KY)
  • Train the Trainer (Frankfort, KY)
  • "We the Defenders" Investigators Conference (Biloxi, MS)
  • "We the Defenders" Social Workers/Sentencing AdvocatesConference (Biloxi, MS)
  • Team Mitigation Institute (Atlanta, GA)
Click on Events Tab for more info and to register.

October 30, 2018: NAPD releases a video about its achievements over the 5 years since forming in November in 2013. This films was coordinated by NAPD Steering Committee Member and San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and debuted at the Racial Justice Training and 5 Year Celebration in Baltimore, Maryland. You can watch the video HERE

July 1, 2018: General Registration opens for the “WE THE DEFENDERS” TRAINING CONFERENCE,  November 26-29, 2018, Indianapolis, IN

You can watch a video about the event HERE 

Due to overwhelming demand, NAPD will again offer this comprehensive Investigator and Social Worker/Sentencing Advocate training experience! The program will include one track for Investigators and a separate track for Social Worker/Sentencing Advocates.  Hear from nationally recognized experts who will share their knowledge on a wide range of topics relevant to the work you do each and every day.  Network with other criminal defense practitioners from around the country and find your tribe. 

January 23, 2018: In response to US Attorney General Jeff Session's reversal of prior policy on the imposition of fines and fees for criminal defendants, NAPD submitted the following letter on behalf of the public defender community. You can read the letter HERE