A Campbell County judge already under criminal indictment for mishandling a number of a cases while she was on the bench is now the subject of a federal civil-rights lawsuit.
Ashley Keisling, the parent and natural guardian of two children in Whitley County, Ky., filed the lawsuit against Campbell County Judge Amanda Sammons in U.S. District Court in Knoxville on Friday.
The lawsuit alleges Sammons ordered the removal of Keisling’s children from Kentucky to Tennessee without legal authority or jurisdiction to do so.
The suit stated Sammons took actions “outside the scope of her official capacity and for taking action when she was devoid of jurisdiction” over Keisling’s children.
Keisling found out law enforcement officers from the Whitley County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the school of her children with Sammons’ order by text message from her son, according to the suit.
The lawsuit stated Sammons then ordered the children to live in Tennessee with their father Johnny Ray Elliott, whom Keisling divorced in 2008. Elliott had a valid “no contact order” issued against him in Whitley County District Court, and it prevented him from seeing the children.
Keisling was separated from her children for nearly three weeks, according to the suit.
The children did not attend their Kentucky school during the three weeks authorities removed them from Keisling. The lawsuit stated the children fell behind in their studies during this time.
The children "were subjected to physical injuries from being subjected to an unclean home with bedbugs," the suit stated.
"One of the children sustained several emotional injuries from being unlawfully forced to return to an unsafe environment in which one had previously been abused," according to the lawsuit.
The couple filed for divorce in Campbell County General Sessions Court in August 2008. The lawsuit stated Keisling and Elliott had separated in Jellico, and Keisling had already moved with the children to Williamsburg, Ky., at the time of the divorce filing.
A permanent parenting plan order stated Keisling as the primary residential parent for the children, according to the lawsuit. A final decree of divorce was entered in November 2008.
Sammons, who ran for Campbell County judge as the “blue-eyed assassin,” wasn’t elected to the bench until 2014, when she beat attorney Kathy Parrott and former General Sessions Judge Joe Ayers.
The Campbell County Commission selected Ayers to replace Sammons on an interim basis in September while Sammons faces legal proceedings.
Sammons was indicted in August on four counts of official misconduct. She pleaded not guilty to the felony charges, and has a trial set for Nov. 1.
Parrott filed the civil-rights lawsuit on behalf of Keisling. The suit also named the Campbell County government, the Whitley County government, Campbell County Circuit Court Clerk Bobby Van, Campbell County Sheriff Robbie Goins and Whitley County Sheriff Colan Harrell as defendants.