In the Matter of Kenneth E. Johns, Jr., Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2016-001996
Submitted October 26, 2016
P. Turner, Jr., Senior Assistant Disciplinary Counsel, of
Columbia, for Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
S. Nichols, of Bluestein Nichols Thompson & Delgado, LLC,
of Columbia, for respondent.
judicial disciplinary matter, respondent and the Office of
Disciplinary Counsel have entered into an Agreement for
Discipline by Consent pursuant to Rule 21of the Rules for
Judicial Disciplinary Enforcement contained in Rule 502 of
the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules (SCACR). In the
Agreement, respondent admits misconduct and consents to the
issuance of a public reprimand or a suspension of up to six
(6) months. Respondent requests that any suspension be
imposed retroactively to April 12, 2016, the date of his
interim suspension. We accept the Agreement and suspend
respondent from office for six (6) months, retroactive to the
date of respondent's interim suspension. The facts, as
set forth in the Agreement, are as follows.
estate was opened in Oconee County for the estate of Z.H.
Z.H.'s parents had filed a wrongful death suit on behalf
of the estate against the Seneca Police Department. The case
was settled with the family for the sum of $2, 150, 000. Due
to the public nature of the case, the settlement received
extensive press coverage.
the matter being before the probate court for administration
of the estate, respondent expressed his opinion about the
settlement on Facebook posting: "In the end it's all
about the money. Always. Unfortunately, I see it
EVERYDAY." Respondent later added: "Once ck is in
hand, they'll disappear."
review of respondent's Facebook account revealed that he
has made extensive political posts, including ones in which
he appears to endorse the presidential candidacy of one
candidate. A review of respondent's Facebook account
further revealed a post in which he engaged in fundraising
for a local church. Respondent's Facebook account
identifies himself as the probate court judge for Oconee
County and the account, along with all of respondent's
posts, were accessible to all members of Facebook.
greatly regrets his conduct with regard to the estate of Z.H.
matter and is sorry for any distress that it may have caused
Z.H.'s family. Respondent recognizes that, while he did
not mention the estate of Z.H. by name on Facebook, it was
inappropriate for him to make the statements as it would be
clear in the community to what he was referring. Respondent
also recognizes that it was inappropriate for him to make
political posts and to post information about a fundraiser
for a local church.
has now removed reference to himself as a judge on his
Facebook page. He submits that he is deeply embarrassed about
the matter and seeks to assure the Court that, in the future,
he will not make reference to anything involving his court
and will refrain from making political posts or posting
fundraising information on Facebook or any other social
media. Respondent is extremely proud of the Oconee County
Probate Court and wants to assure the Supreme Court that he
will do nothing further that could damage the reputation of
the probate court.
admits that by his conduct he has violated the following
provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Rule 501, SCACR:
Canon 1 (judge shall uphold integrity and independence of
judiciary); Section 1A of Canon 1 (judge should participate
in establishing, maintaining and enforcing high standards of
conduct, and shall personally observe those standards so that
integrity and independence of judiciary will be preserved);
Canon 2 (judge shall avoid impropriety and appearance of
impropriety in all judge's activities); Section 2A of
Canon 2 (judge shall respect and comply with the law and
shall act at all times in manner that promotes public
confidence in integrity and impartiality of judiciary);
Section A(1) of Canon 4 (judge shall conduct all of
judge's extra-judicial activities so that they do not
cast reasonable doubt on the judge's capacity to act
impartially as judge); Section A(2) of Canon 4 (judge shall
conduct all of judge's extra-judicial activities so that
they do not demean the judicial office); Section C(3)(b)(i)
of Canon 4 (judge shall not personally participate in the
solicitation of funds or other fundraising activities); and
Section A(1)(b) of Canon 5 (judge shall not publicly endorse
candidate for election to public office).
also admits he has violated the following Rules for Judicial
Disciplinary Enforcement, Rule 502, SCACR: Rules 7(a)(1) (it
shall be ground for discipline for judge to violate Code of
Judicial Conduct) and Rule 7(a)(9) (it shall be ground for