'Romantic relationship' leads to complaint against Kaminski

A file photo of Chris Kaminski

A complaint against Coffee County District Judge Chris Kaminski has been filed with the Alabama State Judicial Inquiry Commission.

The 26-page complaint posted on the commission’s website Tuesday, July 16, charges Kaminski with “certain conduct relating to his romantic relationship with an attorney who regularly practiced before him as violating the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics and severely undermining the public’s and the (Legal) Bar’s confidence in the integrity, independence and impartiality of the judiciary.”

In the complaint, signed by Judicial Inquiry Commission Chairman Billy C. Bedsole July 16, the “romantic relationship” is described as having begun “at the latest by June 1, 2017,” and “…that relationship continues to this day.”

In the complaint, Bedsole states that during the “romantic relationship” the judge “engaged in a pattern and practice of appointing the attorney to cases; taking judicial actions in cases in which the attorney was an attorney of record even after their relationship was publicly acknowledged; entering attorney’s-fee-declaration orders for the attorney’s benefit; and failing to disqualify himself from cases in which the attorney was an attorney of record even after their relationship was publicly acknowledged.”

Bedsole notes that “despite the clear evidence that Judge Kaminski and the attorney were in a romantic relationship during a period in which she practiced before him, Judge Kaminski’s response….failed to be forthright and candid with the (Judicial Inquiry Commission) as to this fact in the Nov. 28, 2018 response to the Commission.”

Kaminski also used “the prestige of the judicial office to gain access to courtroom-security footage and he permitted the attorney to post it on social media to refute accusations concerning them,” according to the complaint.

The complaint notes that the Coffee County “legal community, including attorneys who regularly practiced before Judge Kaminski, began hearing rumors of an affair between (the judge) and the attorney as early as the summer of 2017. Thereafter, the affair became well-known throughout the general community.”

Kaminski received “personal and confidential” notification from Bedsole by certified mail Sept. 25, 2018 informing him that a complaint had been filed against him by a local attorney and that the Judicial Inquiry Commission would be conducted.

Bedsole’s complaint cites more than 100 specific court cases that were impacted by the “romantic relationship” between the judge and the attorney.

The complaint also cites multiple instances during which Kaminski “was plainly disqualified from taking any action in each case, he granted her motions and continued to preside in those cases despite being disqualified.”

Bedsole notes that Kaminski’s lawyer, who was retained after the complaint was filed, submitted a response to allegations of impropriety that “was not fully forthright and candid with the Commission.

“The response acknowledges that there were rumors in the community that Judge Kaminski was having an affair with the attorney but he steadfastly denied these rumors then and denies them now,” Bedsole said. “This is a misrepresentation.”

Bedsole states several provisions of the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics that Kaminski violated, to include: A judge should uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary; a judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all his activities; and, a judge should at all times avoid conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the judicial office into disrepute.”

No response was filed by Kaminski by The Southeast Sun press time.

Kaminski has served as Coffee County District Judge since his appointment to the bench by then Gov. Robert Bentley in May 2015.

Bentley appointed Kaminski to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of then District Judge Paul Sherling, who resigned to work in his family’s business in Enterprise.

Kaminski served out the remainder of Sherling’s term which expired in January 2017.

Kaminkski ran as the District Judge Place 1 incumbent in the primary election in March 2016, defeating challenger Jodie R. Thompson 6,063 to 3,389.

There was no Democrat challenger in the November 2016 general election, allowing Kaminski to retain the seat.

Kaminski graduated from Enterprise High School in 2002 and went on to graduate from the University of Alabama with a degree in business administration and a minor in computer science. He also earned his law degree from the Jones School of Law in Montgomery in 2009.

Prior to his judgeship, Kaminski had most recently served as an assistant district attorney in Coffee and Pike counties for nearly six years since October 2009.

Should a judicial vacancy occur, Gov. Kay Ivey will name the new Coffee County District Judge.

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