Kentucky Court of Justice
Judicial Nominating Commission releases names of nominees to fill vacancy on Kentucky Court of Appeals
The Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice Joseph E. Lambert, met April 16 at the Capitol to choose nominees to fill a vacant position on the Kentucky Court of Appeals. The nominees for the 3rd Appellate District, Division 1, are attorneys James I. Howard, Marcia A. Smith and Susan Michele Wilson.
Attorney James I. Howard resides in Edmonton and currently serves as a special judge on the Kentucky Court of Appeals. He was previously affiliated with Hensley, Ross & Howard. He earned a bachelor's degree from Asbury College and a juris doctor from Duke University.
Attorney Marcia A. Smith currently practices law in Corbin.
Attorney Susan Michele Wilson resides in Stearns and has served as the assistant county attorney for McCreary County since 1990. She earned a bachelor's degree from Lincoln Memorial University and a juris doctor from the Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law.
The appointee to this vacancy will serve until one of the candidates for this position wins the November general election and takes the oath of office. According to the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Web site, six candidates have filed to run for this vacant judgeship in the May primary: Clay M. Bishop Jr., Michael O. Caperton, Larry E. Conley, Jeff Eastham, Paul F. Henderson and James I. Howard.
The 3rd Appellate District consists of Adair, Bell, Casey, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Estill, Garrard, Green, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Lee, Leslie, Lincoln, Marion, McCreary, Metcalfe, Monroe, Nelson, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Russell, Taylor, Washington, Wayne and Whitley counties.
Kentucky Constitution Addresses Judicial Vacancies
Section 118 of the Constitution of Kentucky imposes on the Governor the duty of appointing an interim judge when a judicial vacancy occurs. Section 118 also mandates that it is the responsibility of the Chief Justice to convene and preside over meetings of a Judicial Nominating Commission to select three qualified applicants from which the Governor must appoint. For circuit judges and district judges, the nominating commissions are local and the members selected from within the judicial circuit or district. A statewide nominating commission is convened to fill vacancies on the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.
Judicial Nominating Commission Process
When a judicial vacancy occurs, the executive secretary of the Judicial Nominating Commission sends a notice of vacancy to all attorneys in the judicial circuit or the judicial district affected. Attorneys can recommend someone or nominate themselves. Once that occurs, the individuals interested in the position return a questionnaire to the Office of Chief Justice. The Chief Justice then meets with the Judicial Nominating Commission to choose three nominees. The names of the applicants are not released. However, once the Judicial Nominating Commission has determined the names of the three finalists to be sent to the governor for selection, the Judicial Branch makes the names available to the public and the media. The credentials of these three nominees are sent to Gov. Ernie Fletcher for review. When the governor appoints the replacement, his office makes the announcement.
Kentucky 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 for eight-year terms. With a few exceptions, most cases appealed from Circuit Court go to the Court of Appeals. The case is reviewed, not retried, at the appeals level, 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 move about the state to hear appeals. When the Court of Appeals publishes its rulings on cases, those rulings become the governing case law for all similar cases in the trial courts of Kentucky.
The Administrative Office of the Courts is the operational arm of the Kentucky Court of Justice and supports the activities of more than 3,500 court system employees, including the elected offices of justices, judges and circuit court clerks.