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HomeNewsArchivesAttorney for Controversial Jurist: 'Judge Kendall Has Been Unfairly Tried'

Attorney for Controversial Jurist: 'Judge Kendall Has Been Unfairly Tried'

May 25, 2007 — Speaking through his attorney, Robert L. King, controversial Judge Leon Kendall said Friday he has been unfairly targeted, without an opportunity to speak for himself.
When the Source called Kendall's chambers Friday morning for comment about a third complaint filed against the judge, the inquiry was referred to attorney King. (See "Third Complaint Filed Against Judge Kendall After Alleged Robbery.")
Sen. Ronald Russell, chairman of the Commission on Judicial Disabilities, hadn't returned calls from the Source by late Friday. Noting the confidential nature of the commission's actions, he has said the commission is working on the complaints, but he was reluctant to release any date for a public announcement of the commission's decision.
Speaking Friday, King staunchly defended Kendall. "It's a strange thing that is going on," King said. "The judge has never been privy to the complaints; he has never been afforded a copy of any complaints. The only thing we can say is the judge knows of this from newspaper reports. The people filing the complaints have not had the courtesy to send a copy to the judge."
He continued, "This is the only time that charges have been filed against a judge or a lawyer where no one has provided the person charges with a copy of the charges. This is bad."
King questioned the information used to criticize Kendall.
"We have had people demonstrating outside the courthouse, and he cannot respond to that, though it may hurt him as a human being," he said. "The facts the people have are wrong; they have half the facts, but not all of them."
Kendall's peers have not joined the chorus of complaints, King noted.
"Judge Kendall has been unfairly tried by the media and the victims' advocacy groups, and hung out to dry by people who don't know anything about the law," he said. "Not one member of the legal community in the territory has spoken out, not one judicial official, and the reason for that is that Kendall is right."
He continued, "These people clamoring for his resignation clearly don't know the law. If you're going to castigate a judge, do it on court transcripts and witness testimony, not on the basis of news reports."
King said he would not want to be a lawyer put in the kind of position in which Kendall now finds himself.
"If something is filed, I will represent him," he said. "People aren't aware of the fact that in many of the cases, Judge Kendall has done nothing more than follow both the letter and the spirit of the Bail Reform Act, and the presumption of innocence the constitution said has to be applied."
"Rumor Can Ruin Your Reputation"
The judge has been unfairly attacked, his lawyer says.
"What you have is, for some reason, Kendall being singled out," King said. "Rumor can ruin your reputation, especially rumors based on lies."
King himself brought up the most incendiary case: The release of Daniel Castillo into the community. In March, Kendall released Castillo on his own recognizance pending trial on domestic-violence charges. Castillo, who has a record of violent criminal behavior, now stands accused of killing 12-year-old La'Quina Hennis while he was free awaiting trial.
"The history of this case is in the past," King said. "Castillo had 11 different felonies; one was aggravated rape with a sentence of a potential penalty of life in jail, and other very serious felonies with possibilities of 15 to 20 years in jail. Castillo made plea deals in these cases."
Kendall shouldn't be criticized because of the actions of others, King contends.
"Kendall had nothing to do with these cases," he said, arguing that the Castillo case "was brought before Superior Court Judge Audrey Thomas, and he was released on $75,000 unsecured bail, with the presumption of innocence."
Complains King, "You didn't see anyone protesting Judge Thomas' decision."
Thomas sentenced Castillo to an 18-month jail term with credit for time served. She also ordered him to get counseling.
"What happened after that was Castillo did his time," King said. "Kendall had nothing to do with that case. Kendall's case was for a misdemeanor — by definition, a case which is punishable by less than one year. In the past, Castillo had always appeared at court proceedings, so the judge didn't move for detention."
"A Judge Considering Release Has to Follow a Laundry List"
The law dictated how Kendall handled the case, King says.
"Castillo was clearly eligible for what the Bail Reform Act provides," he said. "A judge considering release has to follow a laundry list in the Bail Reform Act. You have to consider non-financial conditions before you get to financial considerations, so you do away with the disparity between the rich and the poor, so each is treated fairly.
"The act sets out a logical order in which a judge must consider conditions, the first of which is whether the person should be released on his own recognizance. You make a decision based on what is in front of you. The judge determined he had sufficient ties to the community, coupled with his record of appearing in court, not to be considered a flight risk."
The prosecution also had a role in how the Castillo case was handled, King said.
"Something else: The prosecutors have a vast amount of power and can move for detention, and if they do so immediately, the judge has no choice but to hold the person until such time as a hearing, and in this case, the prosecution never moved for detention," he said. "After you've made some kind of initial determination, if you find anything in his favor, you have to release a person on his own recognizance, just as Judge Thomas did in the previous case."
Kendall has a long history on the bench, King said, and his critics need to look at the big picture.
"If you're talking by the cases, Kendall has tried 350 cases," he said. "It is approximately eight out of 350 cases (that are singled out). The women's groups cater to the victim — justifiably so — and they champion the causes of the victim. In so doing, they castigate the judge. He took an oath to represent all the people in the territory fairly and to do as his legal training requests of him."
That record contradicts the way Kendall has been portrayed, King says.
"I've read in the paper that the judge is a loose cannon, and that is so far from the truth," He said. "The judge has heard bail arguments in 350 cases." He continued, "You can have a judge who makes decisions based on popularity. But we have to have a judge that is independent, who makes decisions on the rule of law."
The public nature of the complaints against the judge put him in an awkward position, his lawyer argues.
"It's a shame Kendall is not afforded an opportunity to face his accusers, because of the position he holds," King said. "You've got a complaint filed with a commission. Normally that complaint is confidential and not allowed to go public until the commission makes a ruling. This has never happened before, with what has happened in this case being leaked to the media."
A 53-page report was released to the media by Judicial Watch, a Washington, D. C. based watchdog group. (See "Judicial Watchdog Group Files Complaint Against Kendall.") King did not comment on any of the other cases cited in the group's report.
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