Democrats Mike O’Connell and Karen Faulkner Lash Out in Jefferson County Attorney Race Debate

By Jacob Ryan

Louisville attorney Karen Faulkner is questioning the policies of current Jefferson County attorney, Mike O’Connell.

Faulkner criticized O’Connell during a debate on Friday hosted by the Louisville Bar Association.  The two are opponents in the May primary.

Faulkner said O’Connell has displayed unethical behavior, making him unfit to serve the people of Jefferson County.

“It is the county attorney’s job to represent the Metro Council members.  That comes with a duty, he broke that duty,” she said.  “He did not represent Councilman James, instead he broke the confidentiality and tried to throw his client under the bus.  That is unethical.”

Earlier this month, O’Connell issued an opinion that Councilman David James should not cast council votes because he has taken a conflicting oath to serve as a police officer for the University of Louisville.

O’Connell said Faulkner’s lack of prosecutorial experience makes her unfit for the job of county attorney.

“I think the contrast between me and Ms. Faulkner is pretty clear in connection with this office,” O’Connell said.  “Jefferson County deserves an experienced attorney to be county attorney.  This office is too big and too important to be in the hands of someone who lacks the necessary skill and experience to move forward.”

Faulkner would become the first elected female county attorney in Jefferson County if she wins the post.   O’Connell has held the office since 2008.

Elections: Jefferson County Attorney Race; from Courier Journal “O’Connell and Faulkner spar in County Attorney debate”

Story from the Courier Journal.

O’Connell and Faulkner spar in County Attorney debate

Patrick T. Sullivan, The Courier-Journal

Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell and democratic challenger Karen Faulkner sparred on a variety of issues, including experience, assistant county attorneys running for judge and juvenile justice reform, as part of the Louisville Bar Association’s democratic nominee debate Friday. O’Connell used the debate to pounce on Faulkner’s inexperience as an attorney, while Faulkner countered with claims of unethical behavior within his office. “This was a great opportunity for folks to attend and make their own judgments,” O’Connell said.

* * *

When asked by Sonka about her inexperience as an attorney, Faulkner touted her time as both a public defender and a private practice attorney. Faulker, who is an actress in addition to being a defense lawyer in private practice, was admitted to the bar in 2005.

* * *

“His experience is the wrong kind of experience,” Faulkner said of O’Connell, citing what she claimed to be questionable practices within his office.

* * *

Faulkner accused him of trying to stack the coming judicial races with his assistants and noted they are obligated to contribute to his campaign. O’Connell shook off the claims, which were addressed later in questions, and touted his experience.

* * *

Sonka asked both candidates about O’Connell’s ruling that allows his assistants to run for judge while maintaining their position.

O’Connell told the audience of more than 100 people that allowing his assistants to run for judge deepens the candidate pool and provides young attorneys with more opportunities.

Faulkner said the practice creates an unethical atmosphere in courtrooms. “County attorneys are sitting, handling cases in courtroom where they’ll be a judge,” she said. “Ethical conflicts will arise.”

When asked about assistants contributing to his campaign, O’Connell said it is a necessary measure. “This is a political office,” he said. “Politics require money.”

Faulkner told the audience that she would never demand her staff contribute to her campaign.

Click on the entire story (if still available on line at the Courier Journal).