Judge Kay Robilio Accused of Misconduct
A year old case has come back to haunt Circuit Court Judge Kay Robilio.
The Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct has filed charges against Robilio regarding a case she oversaw in February of 2012.
It’s alleged Judge Robilio visited the home of the husband in a divorce case.
“Judge Robilio undertook an independent investigation of the conditions present at the residence of the father by making a personal visit to the residence of the father, inspecting the home of the father and later utilizing her personal observations in making rulings and referring to matters concerning the parenting issues,”
That could put her in violation of judicial rules of impartiality.
“A judge must not independently investigate facts in a case and must consider only the evidence presented,” according to the filing compiled by a three-member investigative panel.
IN THE TENNESSEE BOARD OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT
IN RE: THE HONORABLE KAY SPAULDING ROBILIO
CIRCUIT JUDGE, 30th JUDICIAL DISCTRICT
SHELBY COUNTY, TENNESSEE
Docket No. M2013-01143-SC-CJ-CJ
File No. 12-4986
Timothy Discenza, Disciplinary Counsel for the Tennessee Board of Judicial
Conduct, at the direction of an investigative panel of three members of the Board of
Judicial Conduct, in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated § 17-5-301, et. seq.,
hereby files formal charges against the Honorable Kay Spaulding Robilio, Circuit Judge
of the 30th Judicial District at Shelby County, Tennessee.
1. Following a full investigation authorized under the provisions of Tennessee Code
Annotated § 17-5-304(bX3)(2009 Repl.) the three member investigative panel composed
of the Honorable Angelita Dalton, Mr. Miles Burdine, and Mr. Thomas Lawless found,
pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 17-5-304(d)(2)(A), that there is reasonable
cause to believe that the Honorable Kay Spaulding Robilio has committed judicial
offenses alleged herein in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated § 17-5-302, and
directed Disciplinary Counsel to file formal charges pursuant to Tennessee Code
Annotated § 17-5-304(d)(2)(A).
2. The Honorable Kay Spaulding Robilio, at times relevant herein, was a Circuit
Judge of the 30th Judicial District at Shelby County, Tennessee, having been elected to
that position. Therefore, Judge Robilio is subject to judicial discipline by the Board of
Judicial Conduct pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 17-5-102.
Disciplinary Counsel charges the Honorable Kay Spaulding Robilio as follows:
3. On or about February 12th, 2012, the Honorable Kay Spaulding Robilio, while
acting in her position as a Circuit Judge of the 30th Judicial Circuit of Tennessee, had
pending in her Court a domestic relations case in which the post divorce custody and
visitation rights concerning the minor child of the parties were at issue. On said date,
Judge Robilio undertook an independent investigation of the conditions present at the
residence of the father, by making a personal visit to the residence of the father,
inspecting the home of the father, and later utilizing her personal observations in making
rulings and referring to matters concerning the parenting issues.
4. At all times described in paragraph 3, the said Kay Spaulding Robilio, as a Circuit
Judge of the 30th Judicial District of Tennessee was subject to the Code of Judicial
Conduct, as set out in Rule 10, Rules of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, that were then
In pertinent part, the Code of Judicial Conduct, by and through its Canons,
provided as follows:
CANON 1 — A Judge Shall Uphold the Integrity and Independence of the
A. An independent and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in
our society. A judge should participate in establishing, maintaining, and
enforcing high standards of conduct and shall personally observe those
standards so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary will be
preserved. The provisions of this Code are to be construed and applied to
further that objective.
Commentary. Deference to the judgments and rulings of courts depends
upon public confidence in the integrity and independence of judges. The
integrity and independence of judges depends in turn upon their acting
without fear or favor. Although judges should be independent, they must
comply with the law, including the provisions of this Code. Public
confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary is maintained by the
adherence of each judge to this responsibility. Conversely, violation of this
Code diminishes public confidence in the judiciary and thereby does
injury to the system of government under law.
CANON 2 — A Judge Shall Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance
ofImpropriety in All of the Judge’s Activities
A. A judge shall respect and comply with the law* and shall act at all
times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and
impartiality of the judiciary.
Commentary. —Public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by
irresponsible or improper conduct by judges. A judge must avoid all
impropriety and appearance of impropriety. A judge must expect to be the
subject of constant public scrutiny. A judge must therefore accept
restrictions on the judge’s conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by
the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly.
The prohibition against behaving with impropriety or the
appearance of impropriety applies to both the professional and personal
conduct of a judge. Because it is not practicable to list all prohibited acts,
the proscription is necessarily cast in general terms that extend to conduct
by judges mat is harmful although not specifically mentioned in the Code.
Actual improprieties under this standard include violations of law, court
rules, or other specific provisions of this Code. The test for appearance of
impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a
perception that the judge’s ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with
integrity, impartiality, and competence is impaired.
CANON 3- A Judge Shall Perform the Duties of Judicial Office
Impartially and Diligently.
B. (7) A Judge shall accord to every person who has a legal interest in a
proceeding, or that person’s lawyer, the right to be heard according to law.
A Judge shall not initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications, or
consider other communications made to the judge outside the presence of
the parties concerning a pending or impending proceeding….
Commentary. … A judge must not independently investigate
facts in in a case and must consider only the evidence presented.
5. The above-described conduct and actions of Judge Robilio set forth herein in
paragraph 3 constitute a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct as set forth in the
preceding paragraph 4, and as such, subject her to the sanctions provided by the
provisions of Tennessee Code Annotated § 17-5-301.
The Honorable Judge Kay Spaulding Robilio is hereby given written notice of the
details of the Formal Charges brought against her pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 17-5-
JAirsuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 17-5-307(c), Judge Robilio shall have thirty (30)
days from and after the date of receipt of these Formal Charges to file an Answer with the
Court by filing the same at the Office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court, 100 Supreme
Court Building, 401 Seventh Avenue North, Nashville, Tennessee 37219 and by serving
a copy on Disciplinary Counsel at P.O. Box 50356, Nashville, Tennessee 37205.
Failure to answer these Formal Charges shall constitute an admission of the
factual allegations not answered.
WHEREFORE, Disciplinary Counsel moves the Board to set this matter for
hearing before a Hearing Panel of the Board of Judicial Conduct at such location where
the Board of Judicial Conduct may convene by law, within sixty (60) days from and after
the date the Answer is filed by Judge Robilio, as required by Tenn. Code Annotated § 17-
5-308(a), or, in the event no Answer is filed, to set the matter within ninety (90) days of
the date these Formal Charges are filed with the Clerk of the Court, in order to comply
with the statutory time limit, and upon the hearing of this action, to impose just and
proper sanctions as provided by law, including the costs and discretionary costs as
provided by law.