Kentucky Court of Justice
Judicial Nominating Commission announces nominees for vacant Court of Appeals seat
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr., today announced nominees to fill the vacant Court of Appeals seat in the 6th Appellate District, Division 1. The district is composed of 21 counties in the Northern Kentucky area. The vacancy was created when Gov. Steve Beshear appointed Court of Appeals Judge Michelle M. Keller as a Supreme Court justice on April 3.
The three attorneys named as nominees to fill the vacancy are Allison Emerson Jones of Prospect, Mary Kathleen Molloy of Crescent Springs and Justin Aaron Sanders of Fort Wright.
Jones is an administrative law judge for the state Department of Workers’ Claims and previously served as an attorney for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. She received her juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law.
Molloy is a partner in the law firm of Arnzen, Molloy & Storm and is associated with Amelia development as a limited partner in the development of residential real estate in Ohio. She received her juris doctor from Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law.
Sanders is a partner in The Sanders Law Firm. He received his juris doctor from the Pepperdine University School of Law in California.
The counties in the 6th Appellate District are Bath, Boone, Bracken, Campbell, Carroll, Fleming, Gallatin, Grant, Harrison, Henry, Kenton, Lewis, Mason, Nicholas, Oldham, Owen, Pendleton, Robertson, Shelby, Spencer and Trimble.
Justice Keller was appointed to the Supreme Court to fill the unexpired term of Justice Wil Schroder, who retired in January due to health issues.
Court of Appeals
The Kentucky Court of Appeals, along with the Supreme Court of Kentucky, was formed after the 1975 enactment of the Judicial Article that created Kentucky’s unified court system. Fourteen judges, two elected from each of the seven appellate districts, serve on the Court of Appeals for terms of eight years.
Nearly all cases heard by the Court of Appeals come to it on appeal from a lower court. If a case is tried in Circuit Court or District Court and the losing parties involved are not satisfied with the outcome, they may ask for a higher court to review the correctness of the trial court’s decision. Some cases, such as criminal case acquittals and divorces, may not be appealed. In a divorce case, however, child custody and property rights decisions may be appealed. With a few exceptions, most cases appealed from Circuit Court go to the Court of Appeals. The case is not retried at the appeals level. Instead, the original trial record is reviewed, with attorneys presenting the legal issues to the court for a decision.
Court of Appeals judges are divided into panels of three to review and decide cases, with the majority deciding the outcome. The panels do not sit permanently in one location, but travel throughout the state to hear appeals. When the Court of Appeals publishes its rulings on cases, those rulings become the governing case law for all such similar cases in the trial courts of Kentucky.
Judicial Nominating Process
When a judicial vacancy occurs, the executive secretary of the Judicial Nominating Commission publishes a notice of vacancy in the judicial circuit or the judicial district affected. Attorneys may recommend someone or nominate themselves. The names of the applicants are not released. Once nominations occur, the individuals interested in the position return a questionnaire to the Office of the Chief Justice. Chief Justice Minton then meets with the Judicial Nominating Commission to choose three nominees. Because the Kentucky Constitution requires that three names be submitted to the governor, in some cases the commission submits an attorney’s name even though the attorney did not apply. A letter naming the three nominees is sent to Gov. Steve Beshear for review. The governor has 60 days to appoint a replacement, and his office makes the announcement.
Makeup of the Judicial Nominating Commission
The Judicial Nominating Commission is established in the Kentucky Constitution. Ky. Const. § 118; SCR 6.000, et seq. The commission has seven members. The membership is comprised of the chief justice of Kentucky (who also serves as chair), two lawyers elected by all the lawyers in their circuit/district and four Kentucky citizens who are appointed by the governor. The four citizens appointed by the governor must equally represent the two major political parties, so two must be Democrats and two must be Republicans. It is the responsibility of the commission to submit a list of three names to the governor and the governor must appoint a judge from this list of three.
Administrative Office of the Courts
The Administrative Office of the Courts in Frankfort is the operations arm for the state court system. The AOC supports the activities of nearly 3,300 court system employees and 403 elected justices, judges and circuit court clerks. As the fiscal agent for the state court system, the AOC executes the Judicial Branch budget.