Judge Kelvin Jones’ divorce raises questions of invasion of privacy, mysterious deposits

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Nashville Judge Kelvin Jones accessed his wife’s work email in order to read attorney-client communications, secretly recorded her with a hidden camera and made large cash bank deposits last year, according to a series of filings by his wife in their divorce lawsuit.

Jones, who was elected to the Circuit Court in 2014, is in the midst of a contentious divorce from his wife Denise Jones, who is assistant vice president and legal counsel with Sarah Cannon Research Institute.

In several filings, Denise Jones accused her husband of accessing her work email without permission and forwarding himself emails between her and her divorce attorney last year. Those communications are strictly protected under attorney-client privilege laws.

Chancery Court Judge Kelvin Jones (official photo, Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts)
Chancery Court Judge Kelvin Jones (official photo, Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts)

In a divorce filing, Kelvin Jones admitted to accessing “emails that contained correspondence between (his wife) and her attorneys.” But he denied the claim that he accessed the email account without his wife’s knowledge or permission.

Denise Jones claims he didn’t have permission and that her employer requires security checks in order to access the private information contained in her email because she works for a healthcare provider. According to the lawsuit, Kelvin Jones forwarded 37 email chains to himself.

Kelvin Jones began accessing the email account without permission the day after his wife notified him she was filing for divorce on Aug. 20, 2019, his wife claims in the lawsuit.

Kelvin Jones also placed a hidden motion-detecting and night-vision enabled video camera inside a clock in the master bedroom of their Nashville home, according to the lawsuit. The couple continued to live together in separate rooms after Denise Jones filed for divorce last year.

In a filing, Denise Jones said she did not know she was being recorded and learned of the secret camera after she hired a private investigator to conduct a security sweep of the house, the deed of which is in her name.

Kelvin Jones admitted he placed the camera in the bedroom. He said the camera was part of a fully integrated home security system. Kelvin Jones also said he was the only person sleeping in the master bedroom and that his wife slept in a guest room. Jones said he did not use the camera to remotely monitor any conversations.

Kelvin Jones said in a court filing the camera was placed in the bedroom on Sept. 16 last year and removed on Oct. 25 at his wife’s request.

In a filing last week, Denise Jones claims her husband made $194,709.30 in cash deposits to bank accounts in his name over a one-month period last year. Denise Jones said in an affidavit that she has “no idea where these cash deposits came from” and she is concerned they could bring about serious issues with the Internal Revenue Service. An exhibit attached to Denise Jones’ affidavit details the bank receipts for the deposits. 

Denise Jones also said in her affidavit that she’s concerned about having to face tax repercussions from a settlement her husband made with First Citizens Bank. Jones was sued by the bank in 2012 for defaulting on a real estate loan to buy land and develop a Microtel Inn and Suites. Kelvin Jones settled a $928,844.26 judgment against him from the bank last year for $150,000. 

His salary as a judge is about $161,000.

The Tennessee Lookout reached out to Jones for comment on the claims in the divorce. He did not respond to those requests. Nor did he respond to a request for comment about the nature of the bank deposits.

According to the Tennessee Judicial Code of Conduct, “Judges should maintain the dignity of judicial office at all times, and avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in their professional and personal lives. They should aspire at all times to conduct that ensures the greatest possible public confidence in their independence, impartiality, integrity, and competence.”

The Judicial Code of Conduct also limits a judge’s ability to earn money outside of their work on the bench. Judges are allowed to be compensated for teaching and speaking engagements and may hold financial investments like real estate or stocks.

Judges are also allowed to work for or hold investments in private businesses, but only if the company is directly owned by the judge or their immediate family member. Judges are banned from engaging in financial activities that could interfere with their judicial duties, lead to frequent ethical disqualifications or involve lawyers who might frequently practice in that judge’s court.

Kelvin Jones was elected to the bench in 2014 after previously running for Public Defender in 2006 and serving as executive director of the Metro Human Relations Commission. In 2008, Jones threw his hat in the ring for a Metro Council appointment to fill the term of the Public Defender. Council appointed assistant public defender Dawn Deaner instead.

He defeated incumbent Circuit Court Judge Carol Soloman to win the Eighth Circuit seat.

His most newsworthy ruling came in 2016 when he ruled Metro Nashville government could move forward with certain short-term rental regulations after initially ruling earlier that year the regulations were unconstitutional.