LEXINGTON – The wife of a Fayette County Family Court Judge has taken to the keyboard to address the accuracy of online claims of experience ahead of the November 8 election by going directly to her husband’s competitor with a promise, to tell the truth.
The Facebook message came as a surprise, says Tiffany Yahr, a candidate for Fayette County Circuit Family Court Judge in the 6th Division. Out of the blue, Yahr says, Scarlett Hope Devine, the wife of sitting Family Court Judge Carl Devine, her competitor in the Nov. 8 election, messaged her on Facebook.
“I believe in addressing things directly,” the message from Scarlett Hope Devine to Yahr began. “I manage most of the posts on my husband’s campaign page and I’m sure you’ll notice that there’s not a single post on that page (or his personal page) that references you in any way. We have been committed to a clean and positive campaign. …”Yours has had several misrepresentations.”
“Obviously, through Courtnet, we are aware of your record,” Scarlett Hope Devine continued in the online message. “We know that in private practice you never had a divorce, custody or child support trial. There weren’t even contested hearings. My husband’s entire 25 years was in family law. If one more person posts that my husband is less qualified or has less experience (which is simply not true and you know it), I will address your experience publicly, boost it, make sure it’s shared and whatever else I need to do to make sure that the information voters are receiving is ACCURATE. Integrity matters.”
The message raised Yahr’s hackles. What was Hope Devine referencing, she wondered, and is the wife of a sitting family court judge accessing a restricted database with confidential information reserved for legal professionals?
“I’m overall shocked to see threatening tactics being used in a judicial race,” Yahr told Kentucky Fried Politics. “Even beyond the bullying, I’m concerned that she is accessing a judicial CourtNet account, which would allow her to view documents and gain information involving any confidential juvenile case I’ve been involved in over my career.”
CourtNet is the electronic portal to access Kentucky Court of Justice records, and its access is controlled by the Administrative Office of the Courts. There is a public-facing version of the software accessible to individuals outside of the legal realm that restricts access to certain information.
Carl Devine, who was appointed in March by Gov. Andy Beshear to fill the remainder of Judge Kathy W. Stein’s term after she retired, said his wife does not have access to his judicial CourtNet account.
“First, my wife does not have access to my CourtNet account,” he said in an email exchange and again reiterated in a phone interview. “There was never a representation that she had access to my CourtNet account. I was not aware of my wife’s messages until after the fact but do believe they are completely accurate.”
Despite Scarlett’s assertion “through Courtnet we are aware of your record” in the since-deleted Facebook message, Carl Devine says Yahr’s case information has been researched by “a number of family law attorneys,” and not through his portal into court records.
Scarlett Hope Devine’s message, he said, was born out of frustration. He said there were multiple instances in which Yahr was referenced as the incumbent judge on Facebook, and that was what she was seeking to correct. Devine provided Kentucky Fried Politics two such instances.
Devine said Yahr was misrepresenting herself as a judge in a Facebook post to her campaign page.
Yahr says the posting was in error and should have said “if elected” as a family court judge. She says she has never purposefully misrepresented herself as a judge.
“I don’t think I’d get very far with that,” Yahr said. “I think people would figure me out pretty quickly.”
In a second instance, it was another Facebook post, this time from the Greater Paralegal Association that was misidentifying Yahr as a family court judge, and 10 days later the group corrected their post online and said it was an internal error – not one from Yahr that led to the misunderstanding.
“I have and am committed to running a clean campaign despite knowing that Ms. Yahr has made misrepresentations regarding her experience for this position as well as at least on two documented occasions representing herself as the family court judge,” Devine said of the posts.
For Yahr, she says she is focused on “finishing strong” and staying out of a “war of words” with Mrs. Devine.
At the end of the day it is the voters in the district, not Facebook users, who will weigh the issues and experience, and then head to the polls to decide who to support for this position and others on Nov. 8.