Kentucky Court of Justice
Kentucky Court of Appeals to hear oral arguments May 14 in Prestonsburg

Press Release Date:  Wednesday, May 07, 2008  
Contact Information:  Jamie Ball
Public Information Specialist
502-573-2350, x 2233

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The Kentucky Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in two cases Wednesday, May 14, at the Floyd County Justice Center in Prestonsburg. The proceedings will be open to the public.

A three-judge panel consisting of Court of Appeals Chief Judge Sara Walter Combs, Court of Appeals Judge Janet L. Stumbo and Senior Judge William L. Knopf will hear arguments at 1:45 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. in Circuit Courtroom B at the justice center, which is located at 127 S. Lake Drive.

Summaries of the cases the panel will hear are below.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

1:45 PM    2007CA000978
                 LORRAINE MAY v JAY MOORE

Summary: Civil. Appellant challenges summary judgment against her in a case involving personal injury to her, which allegedly resulted from negligently made repairs to a house she was leasing.

Rowan County judge who ruled in the case – Judge William B. Mains

Appellant’s attorneys: Michael Ray McDonner and David S. Strite

Appellee’s attorneys: John J. Ellis and Paul R. Stokes

2:30 PM    2007CA001728
                 AMBER EVANS v VICKY EVANS ET AL.

Summary: Civil. Appellant, natural mother of three children at issue, challenges grant of custody to their paternal grandparents even though a judicial decree previously found the mother to be a fit custodian.

Bell County judge who ruled in the case – Judge James L. Bowling Jr.

Appellant’s attorney: Michael A. Taylor

Appellees’ attorney: Scott M. Webster

Chief Judge Sara Walter Combs
Sara Walter Combs became the first woman and the first judge from the eastern Kentucky counties of the 7th Appellate District to serve as chief judge of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. She assumed the role in June 2004 after her colleagues on the court voted unanimously to elect her to the position as chief judge, which provides administrative oversight to the Court of Appeals.

Judge Combs also made history by being the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of Kentucky when then-Gov. Brereton Jones appointed her to serve on the state’s highest court in l993. After she narrowly lost her election to retain that seat on the Supreme Court, Gov. Jones appointed her to fill a vacancy on the Court of Appeals in 1994. She was elected to the court in November 1994 and re-elected in 2000 and again in 2006.

She represents Division 2 of the 7th Appellate District, which is comprised of Boyd, Breathitt, Carter, Elliott, Floyd, Greenup, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Lawrence, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Powell, Rowan and Wolfe counties.

Judge Combs ranked second in her class at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, which later honored her with its Distinguished Alumni Award. She was valedictorian at Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville and at U of L, where she obtained an undergraduate degree in French. She also earned her master’s degree in French from U of L, having been recognized as a Woodrow Wilson designate.

Judge Combs has taught at the high school and university levels in addition to gaining broad experience in the practice of law. She began her career as an associate with Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs in Louisville before serving as corporate counsel to an advertising company. She also practiced law with her late husband, former Kentucky Gov. Bert T. Combs, established a solo practice in Stanton and became a regional associate with the Louisville law firm of Mapother & Mapother. 

She is affiliated with numerous professional, educational and civic organizations. She is a member of the Kentucky Bar Association, the Louisville Bar Association and the University Press of Kentucky. She also serves on the boards of Pikeville College, Lees College and the Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival. She previously served for seven years on the Kentucky Appalachian Commission.

Judge Combs resides at Fern Hill in Stanton, the farm she shared with her late husband, Gov. Bert T. Combs.

Judge Janet L. Stumbo
In 1989, Janet L. Stumbo became the first woman from the 7th Judicial District to be elected to the Kentucky Court of Appeals. At that time, she was only the second woman to serve on the Court of Appeals and the first woman to be elected without having first been appointed.

Judge Stumbo served four years with the Court of Appeals before being the first woman elected (again without having first been appointed) to the Supreme Court of Kentucky in November 1993. She was re-elected to a full eight-year term on the Supreme Court in 1996. While a Supreme Court justice she served as chair of both the Civil Rules Committee and the Family Court Consortium, a statewide committee appointed by then-Chief Justice Robert F. Stephens to implement a pilot project for Family Court. The consortium’s work resulted in the enactment of an amendment to the Kentucky Constitution and legislation establishing Family Court in jurisdictions across the commonwealth.

In November 2006, two years after completing her Supreme Court tenure, Judge Stumbo was elected to the Court of Appeals for a second time to represent the 7th Appellate District. The 7th Appellate District is comprised of Boyd, Breathitt, Carter, Elliott, Floyd, Greenup, Harlan, Johnson, Knott, Lawrence, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Powell, Rowan and Wolfe counties.

Judge Stumbo earned her bachelor’s degree from Morehead State University and her juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law. She began her legal career as a staff attorney to the late Judge Harris S. Howard of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. She entered private practice in 1982 with Turner, Hall & Stumbo PSC, where she focused on cases involving workers’ compensation, federal black lung claims, dissolution of marriage and personal injury.

She also served as assistant Floyd County attorney for three years and sat on the board of directors of the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky from 1983 to 1989, serving as board chair from 1984 to 1989. Judge Stumbo became a partner in Stumbo, DeRossett & Pillersdorf in 1989, just before being elected to the Court of Appeals for the first time.

During her break from the bench in 2004 to 2006, she taught at the Appalachian School of Law and the University of Kentucky College of Law. She also taught a mock trial course for high schools students at Verbally and Mathematically Precocious Youth, a summer camp hosted by Western Kentucky University.

Judge Stumbo was inducted into the UK College of Law Alumni Hall of Fame in 1999 and into the Morehead State University Alumni Association Hall of Fame in 1990. In 1996 the Kentucky Bar Association for Women gave her its first Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, which recognizes professional excellence in the practice of law and efforts to open the field for other women. In 1995 the Women in State Government Network presented her with its Bull's Eye Award. The Kentucky Women Advocates gave her its 1995 Outstanding Justice Award for her support of adopting gender fairness into state judicial language and its 1991 Justice Award for her use of spousal abuse evidence as grounds for setting aside a settlement in dissolution of marriage cases and for her support in creating a shelter for abused women in Floyd County.

Judge Stumbo is a native of Floyd County. She and her husband, attorney Ned Pillersdorf, have three daughters, Sarah, Nancee and Samantha.

Senior Judge William L. Knopf
William L. Knopf became a senior judge in 2006 following his retirement as a Court of Appeals judge. Judge Knopf is assigned as a senior judge for the Court of Appeals for six months each year. He also works part time as a civil mediator.

Senior judges are retired judges who continue working for a set amount of time in return for an enhanced retirement benefit but no other pay. They assist sitting judges with congested dockets and fill in when a sitting judge dies or retires, among other duties.

Judge Knopf will remain in senior-judge status through 2010.

Prior to his retirement from full-time judicial service, Judge Knopf was a Court of Appeals judge for 11 years. He was first elected to the court in 1995 through a special election to complete an unexpired term. He was re-elected to the Court of Appeals in 1999.

Judge Knopf also previously served as a Circuit Court judge and a District Court judge. Former Gov. Wallace G. Wilkinson appointed him as a circuit judge in 1989. He was elected in 1990 to complete the unexpired term for that judgeship and was re-elected in 1991. Former Gov. Martha Layne Collins appointed Judge Knopf as a District Court judge in 1984. He was elected later that year to complete the unexpired term for the district judge seat and was re-elected in 1985 and 1989.

Judge Knopf was in private law practice with his father from 1981 to 1984, during which time he conducted criminal and civil litigation. He served as an assistant commonwealth’s attorney from 1979 to 1981.

A Louisville native, Judge Knopf earned his juris doctor from the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law in 1978. He received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Loyola University of New Orleans in 1976.

Judge Knopf has served on the boards of directors for the Kentucky Bar Foundation, Louisville Bar Association, Lincoln Heritage Council, Boy Scouts of America and the Rotary Club of Louisville.

He is married to Shelly Knopf and is the father of three children, Lauren, Natalie and Evan. He is stepfather to two children, Taylor and Trevor. Judge Knopf enjoys kayaking, running, hiking, biking and traveling.

Kentucky Court of Appeals
Nearly all cases heard by the Kentucky 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. Cases are not retried in the Court of Appeals. Only the record of the original court trial is reviewed, with attorneys presenting the legal issues to the court for a decision.

Fourteen judges, two elected from seven appellate court districts, serve on the Court of Appeals. The judges are divided into panels of three to review and decide cases, with the majority determining the decision. The panels do not sit permanently in one location, but travel about the state to hear cases.

The Administrative Office of the Courts in Frankfort supports the activities of 4,000 Kentucky Court of Justice employees, including the elected offices of justices, judges and circuit court clerks. As the fiscal agent for the state court system, the AOC prepares a biennial budget draft and executes the Judicial Branch budget.