Judge Kay Robilio Accused of Misconduct

kay robilio

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.

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Complaint:

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

FORMAL CHARGES

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.

Jurisdiction

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.

Charges

Disciplinary Counsel charges the Honorable Kay Spaulding Robilio as follows:

Count I

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 effect.

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

Judiciary

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.

NOTICE

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-

307.

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.

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