LEX 18 Investigates: Judge’s Actions Questioned

Posted at 5:05 PM, Aug 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-06 17:05:02-04

(LEX 18) Kentucky judges must adhere to the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct, but did a circuit judge overstep her bounds when her ex-husband was arrested? LEX 18’s Leigh Searcy investigates. 

Donald "Champ" Maze is no stranger to the legal system. He’s a former Bath County attorney who went to federal prison for vote buying and lying to a grand jury. Then, last year, Maze was arrested again on cocaine possession and other charges after police stopped him on I-64.

The day of his arrest, a judge ordered Maze be drug tested, a judge who wasn’t even assigned to his district court case. The judge was his ex-wife, the Honorable Beth Maze, who is the Chief Circuit Judge over Bath, Rowan, Menifee, and Montgomery counties.

The order was signed by Judge Maze herself.

The Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct clearly states, "A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned…"including if the judge’s spouse or domestic partner, or a person within the third degree of relationship to either of them is . . . a party to the proceeding."

LEX 18’s Leigh Searcy asked Judge Maze why she did it. Judge Maze told LEX 18 that no other judges were available and that she would have done it for anyone. 

"If there’s an emergency and you’re the last man standing, you’re excused from the conflict," she said. "It was an emergency. Do I wish now could take it back and not have done it? Absolutely."

On the order, it’s written the Commonwealth’s Attorney and the Bath County Attorney saw the order and signed off on it. Commonwealth’s Attorney Ronnie Goldy said this is not so.

"I never saw that order, never agreed to that order, certainly didn’t do anything with that order," Goldy told LEX 18. 

"I did write that," said Judge Maze. "Am I sorry I wrote it? Sure. That night it was a very emotional night. I was upset."

A grand jury failed to indict Champ Maze on cocaine possession from the traffic stop, but late last year, grand juries indicted him on drug charges related to that stop, along with additional unrelated drug trafficking offenses. 

In relation to the traffic stop, Owingsville’s Police chief questions why a drug test was ordered in the first place when Champ Maze wasn’t arrested for using drugs. Chief Todd Tout asks, where was the emergency?

"That was extremely odd. In 26 years of policing, never had that happen before," said Tout.

Judge Beth Maze has been on the bench for 18 years and says she has never been reprimanded. 

In regards to the drug test order, she reported her actions to the Judicial Conduct Commission.

When asked if it is still being investigated, Judge Maze told Searcy, "I’m not at liberty to speak about that. It’s a confidential matter."

The Judicial Conduct Commission keeps complaints private until a judge is publicly reprimanded.