FRANKFORT, Ky., Aug. 31, 2004 - Melinda L. Wheeler has been named director of the 3,400-person agency that oversees the daily operation of the Kentucky Court system, announced Chief Justice Joseph E. Lambert today. Effective Sept. 1, Ms. Wheeler will serve as director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. Ms. Wheeler, who has 28 years of experience with the Kentucky Court of Justice, has served as acting director for the AOC since April 2004.
In addition, Chief Justice Lambert announced today the appointment of prominent Kentucky attorney Penny Warren as manager of the AOC’s Department of Family Court effective Sept. 1. Ms. Warren will be replacing attorney Carla Kreitman, who has taken a position as court administrator for Jefferson County Circuit Court.
AOC Director Melinda L. Wheeler
"Few people have Melinda Wheeler’s firsthand experience with the daily operation of the Kentucky court system," said Chief Justice Lambert. "She started out on the ground floor of the justice system as a pretrial officer in 1976. This was just a year after passage of the Judicial Article to the Kentucky Constitution, which dramatically changed our trial and appellate court system to what we know today. Ms. Wheeler has played a key role in our evolving court system and is known statewide for her outgoing personality and commitment to Kentucky courts."
Over the past three decades, Ms. Wheeler has served the AOC as general manager of Pretrial Services/ Court Security and deputy director. She has also represented Kentucky courts as a past president of the National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies, and as a current member of the Kentucky Bar Association’s Joint Study Committee on Judicial Concerns, the KBA’s Committee on Alternative Dispute Resolution and the Kentucky Task Force on Court Security. In 2000, she was presented the Ennis J. Olgiati Award in Recognition for Lifetime Achievement in Pretrial Services. In 2003, the Department of Public Advocacy gave Ms. Wheeler its Robert F. Stephens Public Service Award.
Ms. Wheeler is a native of Paintsville, Ky. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Pikeville College.
Family Court Manager Penny R. Warren
Ms. Warren comes to the AOC from the Lexington office of Wyatt Tarrant & Combs where she is an attorney in the firm's Mineral & Energy and Commercial Litigation practice groups. She has argued and won two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and has extensive experience before the Supreme Court of Kentucky and the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Her cases have resulted in more than 40 published legal opinions on such varied issues as judicial ethics, workers’ compensation, Broad Form Deed, Employee Stock Ownership Plan and products liability.
"We are delighted to have an attorney of the stature of Penny Warren directing Kentucky Family Court," said Chief Justice Lambert. "Family Court is one of my highest priorities and Ms. Warren will bring outstanding leadership to this vital role of serving Kentucky children and families."
In recent years Ms. Warren has concentrated her private practice in the areas of complex commercial litigation, mineral law and appellate practice. She gained experience in the public sector as Kentucky’s assistant attorney general from 1980 to 1985 and director of the attorney general’s Appellate Division from 1985 to 1988.
Ms. Warren holds a law degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s in business administration from the University of Arkansas and a bachelor's degree from Murray State University. She is a member of the Fayette County, Kentucky and American Bar associations.
Family Court currently serves 43 Kentucky counties and nearly 2 million citizens, half of Kentucky’s population. Family Court is a division of Circuit Court, Kentucky’s highest trial court level, and employs 34 full-time judges with the same qualifications as other Circuit Court judges. Family Court allows one judge to hear all matters involving a particular family, in a court designed specifically to meet the needs of family law.
The Administrative Office of the Courts is the operational arm of the Kentucky Court of Justice and supports the activities of more than 3,400 court system employees, including the elected offices of justices, judges and circuit court clerks. The AOC also administers the Judicial Branch budget.