Kentucky Court of Justice
Judicial Nominating Commission announces nominees for vacant judgeship in McCreary and Whitley counties
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr., announced Aug. 10 the nominees to fill the vacant Circuit Court judgeship in the 34th Judicial Circuit, Division 2, consisting of McCreary and Whitley counties.
The three attorneys named as nominees to fill the vacancy are Thor H. Bahrman, Maxie E. Higgason and Paul K. Winchester.
Thor H. Bahrman and Maxie E. Higgason are attorneys in private practice in Corbin. Paul K. Winchester serves as the Whitley County attorney.
The judicial vacancy was created by the passing of Judge Paul E. Braden on June 3, 2011.
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 can 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.
Circuit Court is the court of general jurisdiction that hears civil matters involving more than $5,000, capital offenses and felonies, divorces, adoptions, termination of parental rights, land dispute title cases and contested probate cases.
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.