Legal Opinion is County Attorney Mike O’Connell Using ‘Bullying Tactic,’ Primary Challenger Says

Louisville attorney Karen Faulkner is questioning the timing of the Jefferson County Attorney’s legal opinion that Metro Councilman David James’ two jobs are incompatible.

Faulkner is a former public defender who is running for county attorney against incumbent Mike O’Connell in the May primary.

James is supporting Faulkner in the Democratic primary election, citing concerns with O’Connell’s positions on expunging records and the county attorney’s tense relationship with district judges.

“I think that it is awfully ironic that this is coming out now considering the fact that Councilman James has held this position for quite some time and has done a remarkable job,” says Faulkner. “So I do find it very ironic that at this moment after he has come out and publicly supported me that he’s being attacked by Mike O’Connell.”

The county attorney has denied his opinion was politically motivated, despite the suggestion from James earlier this week.

“He’s dead wrong,” O’Connell said. “This is part of my responsibility as the county attorney and as the attorney for Metro Council and as attorney for the people of this community that this matter was addressed.”

This isn’t the first public clash O’Connell has had recently. Over the past year he has has nasty fights with defense attorneys and district judges, which has created tension at the downtown courthouse.

Last November, O’Connell revised a long-standing office policy forbidding assistant county attorneys from running for judicial office. After he changed the policy a number of lawyers from his staff filed to run against judges, who claimed they were being targeted for publicly disagreeing with O’Connell over other legal issues.

Faulkner says the recent opinion about James’ conflict of interest is another example of O’Connell handling a situation poorly.

“The reaction generally that I’ve heard is that this is once again an extreme bullying tactic by Mike O’Connell. I don’t think that this is being handled appropriately,” she says. “I don’t think this is being handled appropriately and don’t agree with the way Mr. O’Connell is attacking Councilman James.”

Faulkner currently serves as a court-appointed Family Court attorney as well as a practicing criminal defense lawyer.

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