Bevin Rails Against 'Incompetent Hack' Judge In Pension Case

May 8, 2018

Gov. Matt Bevin is calling a Franklin Circuit judge who ruled against him this week an “incompetent hack.” The broadside isn’t the first delivered by the governor.

Monday, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd backed Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, who filed a protective order barring Bevin’s legal team from deposing a representative of the attorney general’s office. Beshear is currently suing over the state’s new pension reform law, arguing provisions in the recently-signed bill run counter to the state's "inviolable contract" with teachers.

A day later, Bevin leveled a series of attacks on Shepherd in a 55KRC Radio interview.

"I now have the most incompetent hack of a judge, I don't know if Kentucky, but certainly one of the worst," the governor told the Brian Thomas show. "He's a former Democrat operative. He used to be in a previous Democrat administration as an appointee. Now he happens to be a quote unquote judge, but the law, and following the law, is of little regard to him."

Bevin charged that Shepherd is legislating from the bench, giving advice to Beshear, and rushing the case through before the reforms take effect in July.

The comments are in line with long-standing complaints about Shepherd by Republicans, who maintain the judge favors Democrats.

While Shepherd did serve as the secretary of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet under Democratic Governor Brereton Jones in the 1990s, a Courier-Journal analysis found that, between 2006 and 2016, Shepherd sided with Republicans or against Democrats six times, with Democrats or against Republicans three times, and handed down mixed rulings twice.

Bevin's comments drew fire from former House speaker and fellow Republican Jeff Hoover, who tweeted: "The Governor is just wrong. Judge Philip Shepherd is one of the fairest, most competent and intelligent Judges in the state, certainly not a 'hack', and he presides in arguably the most difficult judicial circuit in the Commonwealth."

Shepherd has not responded to the remarks.