(Editor’s note: This guest blogger piece by frequent Insider Louisville contributor Jacob Conway is in response to this Insider Louisville post last Friday. Insider Louisville currently has two reporters compiling the attendance records of all 17 Jefferson District Court judges including Chief Judge Angela Bisig. This effort includes tabulating thousands of dockets from 2011 and 2012.)
By Jacob Conway
Country Music star Taylor Swift says it best in one of her songs with the verse, “Don’t you worry your pretty little mind; people throw rocks at things that shine.”
And for more than one woman in politics, those words have become more than a clever song lyric. They have become a headline in a newspaper, lead story on the evening news, or the subject of a feature story on an online blog.
A woman is labeled a bitch if she stands up for her convictions and runs the risk of losing her seat, just as (with) Lexington State Senator Kathy Stein.
A woman politician is criticized and outright mocked if she is too attractive or too fashionable. If she’s not attractive enough, she’s called dowdy or matronly.
If a female elected judge has the nerve to take a long weekend during spring break, when dockets are intentionally light, to take a trip with her teenage sons to New York City, or if a local newspaper has the audacity to print pictures of that elected official appearing at fundraisers or community events which take place long after her court has adjourned for the day, accusations are lobbed that she is taking advantage of her position or that it is “interfering with her social life.”
I would point out that men who hold elected office can wear bad toupees, cheap suits, leave work early or miss days of work all together to play golf, go on trips with their new wives, or just because they tied one on the night before and need to rest. Not a word is said by anyone who reports or comments on the news.
If you don’t believe me, just swing by the capital building in Frankfort, any of our 120 county courthouses, and yes, even the Hall of Justice, and you will see that men in politics can eat, drink, and be merry, and they are almost applauded. Let a woman appear to have one too many glasses of wine at a fundraiser, and she is labeled a “party girl.”
Or let an extremely attractive female elected official be photographed one too many times by a society reporter, and she is called a wannabe socialite.
Last Friday, this publication ran a story calling into question the work ethic of Chief Jefferson District Court Judge Angela McCormick Bisig. In the interest of full disclosure, I consider Angela a personal friend, and while I am not professionally involved in her campaign, I am personally supporting her bid for Circuit Court.
I am supporting her because the Judge Bisig described in that piece is not the Judge Bisig whom I have known and with whom I have worked for over a decade.
Realizing that people change and considering the fact I no longer work at the Hall of Justice, I thought there was a small possibility I could have been wrong when I spoke out about the accusations raised in the piece and these older, more established men might have been right about Angela.
So I asked around. Gossip is one thing that isn’t in short supply at the courthouse, and having been around since I was 17, I know where to find the most accurate sources of information.
I swung by the Jefferson Circuit Court Clerk’s Office on Friday and spoke with several extremely high-ranking officials at that office. They said that they were “flabbergasted” that anyone would imply that Judge Bisig is “more concerned with getting her picture in ‘The Voice’ than serving the people of Jefferson County.”
Another top-level Clerk’s Office employee told me she constantly sees Judge Bisig at work. “I am here at 8 a.m. and stay until after 5:30 most every day. I park pretty close to Angela in the garage downstairs, and I can’t think of the last time I haven’t seen her car parked when I get here and as I am leaving.”
I’d add that Judge Bisig’s car would be pretty hard to miss. It is a nice size SUV that has her face and name wrapped around it promoting her candidacy in this year’s election.
I left the Clerk’s office and swung by the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office and asked a few folks there if the Angela we worked with in 2002 was a different Angela in 2012. A top-ranking prosecutor told me that they too were “shocked” that she was accused of missing work.
“Obviously someone is going to miss work every now and then, but she certainly isn’t one of the judges who make a habit out of it.” He added that, “I don’t know how she does it, she’s here later than everyone else, raise teenage boys and is running for Circuit Court – I wouldn’t be able to find the hours in the day to do all that.”
Finally, I went to Judge Bisig herself.
I asked her if she wanted to respond to any of the allegations made on Friday.
She pointed out that she has received positive ratings in the judicial polls during the 10 years she has served on District Court and that earlier this year she was elected Chief District Court Judge by her peers, “Apparently my colleagues on the bench are pleased with my work ethic. They voted to elect me as their chief.”
I asked about the attorneys who also questioned her attendance. She said, “For the past two years I have primarily served in Juvenile Court. They rarely have cases on my docket.”
After my own Insider’s investigation, I feel even more confident in my comments in Friday’s piece, and yes, I think the unfair and apparently incorrect accusations made against Judge Bisig are based in jealousy and sexism.
Chief Judge Angela McCormick Bisig is still the hard-working, innovative, dedicated jurist I knew her to be all those years ago.
We, the taxpayers, are lucky to have her on the bench in District Court, and voters should have no qualms about voting to elevate her to Circuit Court this fall.
About Jacob Conway: Jacob Conway has been actively involved in local and state politics since he was 16 years old. Conway has managed or consulted on a host of local, state and judicial campaigns since the 2002 election cycle. He currently is a partner at Website Mentors, a locally owned and operated web design and digital marketing firm and a member of the Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Party’s Executive Committee.