Governor Michaels sat in the middle of the seven person panel, three women and four men, including the governor. Michaels was known for his conservative views, so Jean knew that if the vote on her resignation were left to him, she would be without a job.
“Judge Carlisle, I’m troubled by the charges that have been presented,” Governor Michaels inquired, “Did you actually pick up this woman, Cynthia Donaldson at a lesbian bar?”
“Yes,” Jean responded, raising her chin a little.
The Governor’s eyes pierced her, “Do you think this is appropriate behavior for a family judge?” the governor demanded.
“There would not have been a problem with my meeting the woman at the bar if John Garrett had not been setting me up,” Jean asserted.
“Have you met with women there before?” the governor probed.
“That is irrelevant to this case,” Jean insisted.
“The fact that you have been meeting women at this bar is relevant to this hearing,” the governor snapped.
“So, are you going to fire me because I’m a lesbian?” Jean asked.
Governor Michaels took a deep breath, “Judge Carlisle, whether you are a lesbian or not is not the problem. Our concern is with your behavior. As a family judge, you know that you have a certain identity that must be kept above reprove. Your behavior leads us to believe that you may not be capable of being discrete.”
“I have been discrete for almost thirty years,” Jean replied, “Had John Garrett not been determined to expose me; we would not be having this conversation.”
The governor’s glare got stronger, “So you have been running the risk of being exposed as a lesbian the entire time you have been a judge?”
“I have been a lesbian all my life,” Jean continued, “But very few people have known that. And it has nothing to do with my ability to be a good judge.”
“Your being a lesbian is not what is going to present a problem,” Karen Williams, one of the more conservative committee members interjected, “It’s the fact that you picked up a stranger at a sex bar and was photographed having sex with her that is going to be the problem.”
Jean frowned, “I was set up for that.”
“Yes, but anyone who has seen those pictures or heard about this case may try to use that information to affect your decisions when a case is not going their way,” Karen said.
“I will not allow someone to bribe or coerce me into making a decision that is wrong,” Jean assured her, “And they can’t blackmail me, it’s not a secret anymore.”
Karen sighed. “I vote that we put Judge Carlisle on probation for six months. That will give us enough to time to see if she will be able to deal with the problems in court that her careless behavior will cause.”
The committee members leaned toward each other and whispered amongst themselves. The governor was clearly not happy with the idea. Karen watched as the members finally stopped talking, “Are we ready to put this to a vote?” The committee members nodded. “All in favor of putting Judge Carlisle on a six month probation period raise your hand.” Five members raised their hands.
The Governor, who had not voted for the probation period, frowned but nodded, “It has been decided then. But I am warning you, one slip in behavior and we will be back in here.”
“Yes, sir,” Jean agreed, her heart still racing from the anticipation of the vote, “There will be no more indiscreet behavior on my part.”
Governor Michaels glared at her, but didn’t comment on her promise. Jean had a bad feeling that he was going to set out to make an example of her. “If there is nothing else to discuss with Judge Carlisle, this meeting is adjourned,” he slammed his gavel on the table.
Everyone jumped, but only Karen gave the governor a disapproving look. Brave woman, Jean thought. She picked up her purse and stood. She should be relieved that they didn’t fire her, but she wasn’t. The way the governor was looking at her gave her a weird feeling inside.
After leaving the meeting room, Jean headed straight to her office.
“Well?” Sara begged as soon as she walked in the door.
“They gave me six months probation,” she reported and picked up her messages from the box Sara kept on her desk.
“Ashley called six times,” Sara said with a small grin.
Jean sighed. Ashley. What was she going to do about Ashley? She looked at Sara, who had been the most amazing secretary. She didn’t know all of Jean’s secrets, but she had apparently picked up on the fact that Ashley was special to her. “Call her back and tell her I will call her from home this evening.”
Sara nodded. She handed Jean a thick stack of files, “This is this afternoon’s cases.”
Letting out a heavy sigh, Jean took the files, “Thanks.”
Jean was just about to go into her private office when Karen Williams came into the room, “Good morning, Sara,” she nodded in Sara’s direction.
“Good morning, Commissioner Williams,” Sara answered and then busied herself with the other files on her desk.
“Can I speak to you privately?” Karen asked Jean.
“Sure,” Jean replied and motioned to her office, “Come on back.”
When Jean closed the door, Karen touched her arm, “You got off lucky today.”
“I know,” Jean agreed. She looked into Karen’s warm, knowing brown eyes, “How long have you known?”
Karen smiled, “Ever since you started practicing law in town.”
Jean was stunned, “Why haven’t I ever seen you at any of the parties or bars?”
“Because I’ve been with my high school sweetheart for thirty years and we are both very much in the closet,” Karen explained, “She’s an elementary school teacher. You think the judicial system is prejudiced toward homosexuals in their ranks, you should see how they are in the educational system.”
Shaking her head, Jean agreed, “I can only imagine.”
“Times have changed, and being gay has become more acceptable in this country, but not in certain professions, and definitely not in small cities in Kentucky,” Karen said.
“Frankfort is hardly a small city,” Jean responded.
“It is by most people’s standards,” Karen said, “And you know what I mean.”
Jean nodded, “I know what you mean. So now what?”
“Michaels is not going to make this easy for you,” Karen advised, “He’s more than a little homophobic. You will definitely need to be careful and not just for the next six months, for the next two years while he is still in office.”
“So are you saying I can’t have a relationship with a woman at all while he’s in office?”
Karen chewed her lip, “You will definitely have to be very careful about it. Is there someone special?”
Jean blushed, “Kind of.”
Karen raised an eyebrow, “Is she in the closet?”
Karen sighed, “If you are not already in a relationship with this person, I would take things very, very slowly. Definitely avoid going out in public on dates. I would even avoid going to see her or having her come to your house, at least until this case with John Garrett dies down.”
“Yes, I think you are right about that.” Jean agreed.
Karen turned to leave but stopped at the door. She looked back at Jean, “We didn’t have this conversation.”
Jean nodded, “Of course.”
Karen opened the door and stepped out into the outer office. Jean stood at her office door and said, “Thanks for making the guidelines to my probation more clear.”
Karen smiled and nodded, “I hope you follow them. You are a good judge. I’d hate to see the courts lose you.”
Jean closed the door to her office and leaned her forehead against it. She could not believe she had gotten herself in such a mess. Moving away from the door, she went to her desk and sat down in the soft leather chair. She picked up a file and opened it. Working was what was going to keep her sane for now.
She would call Ashley and talk to her later, but she wasn’t really sure what to do about this situation. She had known she was falling for Ashley a long time ago, it was one of the reasons she had insisted on the non-kissing rule when they had been playing the dominatrix/submissive game. She had hoped it would keep her from falling too deeply in love with Ashley. Now, they had crossed that line and Jean wasn’t sure she could live without Ashley’s kiss.