Kentucky Court of Justice
Sara Walter Combs re-elected chief judge of Kentucky Court of Appeals
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Sara Walter Combs of Stanton has been re-elected to serve as chief judge of the Kentucky Court of Appeals for a second four-year term.
Court of Appeals judges, who vote to elect their chief judge, re-elected Judge Combs during their regular court meeting May 7. Her second term will begin June 1. The chief judge, who provides administrative oversight to the Court of Appeals, serves for a four-year term under the Kentucky Constitution.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the Court of Appeals as its chief judge for another term,” Judge Combs said. “I thank my colleagues for their confidence and will endeavor to earn it in all my efforts on their behalf.”
Judge Combs is the first woman and the first judge from Eastern Kentucky’s 7th Appellate District to be elected chief judge of the Court of Appeals. She was first elected to the position in 2004.
Judge Combs began her service with appellate courts in 1993, when she became the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of Kentucky. After she narrowly lost her election to retain that seat on the Supreme Court, then-Gov. Brereton Jones appointed her to a vacant seat on the Court of Appeals in 1994. She was elected to the court the following November and re-elected in 2000.
Judge Combs ranked second in her class at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, where she subsequently earned a Distinguished Alumni Award. She was valedictorian at Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville and 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 Gov. Bert T. Combs; established a solo practice in Stanton; and became a regional affiliate with the Louisville law firm of Mapother & Mapother.
She is affiliated with numerous professional organizations and institutions of higher learning. She served for seven years on the Kentucky Appalachian Commission and is active as a volunteer speaker for many civic and youth organizations.
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. 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 move 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.