A state judicial committee has filed three ethics charges against Coffee County District Judge Chris Kaminski after he allegedly benefited an attorney with whom he was romantically involved.
The Alabama Court of Judiciary Overview on Tuesday posted a 28-page document detailing the charges against Kaminski – which allege he assigned cases and guardian ad litem statuses to the attorney in question, did not recuse himself from cases in which she was involved, and even ruled in some of those cases.
The complaint also charges Kaminski used the “prestige” of the office to obtain courtroom surveillance footage in an effort to prove he did not engage in “inappropriate behavior” with the attorney in the presence of his ex-wife.
According to the Alabama Constitution, a judge is disqualified from his duties while the complaint is adjudicated. According to Jenny Garrett, executive director of the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) that filed the charges, Kaminski has 30 days to file a formal answer to the charges.
WTVY reported Tuesday Kaminski resigned minutes before the complaint was made public.
The Court of Judiciary Overview will conduct a hearing on the complaint after the 30-day window. The court has the authority to remove Kaminski from office, suspend him without pay, censure him, or apply other punishments to him.
Kaminski can appeal any decision as well. Presiding Judge Jeff Kelley of the 12th Judicial Circuit, which oversees the district courts of Pike and Coffee counties, did not immediately return a call – though his office informed the Eagle that Kelley was at a judicial conference. Kaminski also did not return a text seeking comment.
The JIC received a complaint about Kaminski’s behavior in late September 2018. The complaint alleged that Kaminski started a romantic relationship with the attorney, whose name was redacted in the report, no later than June 1, 2017. Kaminski was married at the time.
The complaint details that Kaminski assigned the attorney to three criminal cases and 20 juvenile court cases after they engaged in the relationship. Additionally the attorney appeared in front of Kaminski on two criminal cases and 31 juvenile cases following June 1, 2017.
Kaminski also approved 47 attorney’s fee declarations for the attorney, money granted to attorneys for services rendered to those who cannot afford their own attorneys.
The JIC also alleges Kaminski did not answer its questions in a “forthright and candid” manner when asked to address the charges In November. Also the JIC alleges Kaminski obtained courtroom surveillance footage in an effort to disqualify a “malicious rumor” about his behavior at a gathering celebrating Coffee County Circuit Clerk Amy Reeves’ appointment on June 14, 2018.
He later gave a copy of the footage to the attorney, and she disseminated it on social media to further address the rumor, the complaint noted.
The counts allege violations of several tenets of the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics, including those regarding integrity, avoiding the appearance of impropriety, and using the prestige of his office to advance private interests.
Kaminski began his law career as an assistant district attorney in Coffee County, and Gov. Robert Bentley appointed him to the district judgeship on May 14, 2015. Kaminski won election to a full term in 2016.