Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration is trying to disqualify the judge presiding over a lawsuit against the state’s investigation into protesting teachers, arguing that a Facebook “like” shows bias.
Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd is presiding over Attorney General Andy Beshear’s lawsuit against Labor Cabinet Secretary David Dickerson, who subpoenaed 10 school districts for information about teachers who used sick days to protest in Frankfort during this year’s legislative session.
Steve Pitt, Bevin’s general counsel, argued in a court motion filed Monday that Shepherd violated the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct by “liking” a Facebook post that is supportive of Beshear, who is running for governor against Bevin this year.
“In the thick of an election, this Court recently took to social media to publicly support Plaintiff Attorney General Andy Beshear’s campaign against Governor Matt Bevin,” Pitt wrote.
“That alone runs afoul of Kentucky’s Code of Judicial Conduct and raises significant questions about the Court’s impartiality in cases involving Governor Bevin’s administration.”
Shepherd “liked” a post by Democratic state Rep. Chris Harris praising volunteers on Beshear’s campaign.
“The Beshear/Coleman Campaign has some great local talent getting the word out for them. Honored to sign a pledge card to vote for the Beshear/Coleman ticket in November,” Harris wrote.
Bevin has lashed out at Shepherd several times in recent years amid a series of legal challenges brought on by Beshear, calling him an “incompetent hack” and accusing him of being a Democratic operative.
Bevin has also scrutinized Shepherd’s Facebook page before. Last year he made a video criticizing Shepherd for indicating he was “interested” in a protest against the pension bill Bevin signed into law.
Beshear called the Bevin administration’s motion to remove Shepherd “yet another absurd attack by an out-of-control governor.”
“Matt Bevin and his labor secretary have recently announced their ‘findings’ that over 1,000 Kentucky teachers broke the law. Now Bevin is trying to prevent the courts from giving those same teachers due process. Matt Bevin needs to stop attacking teachers, judges and his own lieutenant governor,” Beshear wrote in a statement.
Earlier this month, Bevin’s administration said that 1,074 teachers broke the law by calling in sick to protest in Frankfort earlier this year.
The Labor Cabinet said that the protesting teachers were eligible to be fined $1,000 for each day they protested because they violated the state’s law banning public workers from striking.
Labor Cabinet Secretary David Dickerson said that teachers wouldn’t be fined this time, but that they might be in the future.