Kentucky Court of Justice
Judicial Nominating Commission announces nominees for vacant judgeships in Clark and Madison counties
FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr., announced on July 2 the nominees to fill two vacant judgeships that serve Clark and Madison counties. The nominees are for a vacant Family Court judgeship in the 25th Judicial Circuit, Division 3, and a vacant district judgeship in the 25th Judicial District, Division 1. The JNC selects three nominees for each judgeship.
The three nominees to fill the Family Court vacancy are Christopher Micah Davis of Winchester, Ira Dean Newman of Berea and Nora Jeanne Shepherd of Richmond.
The Family Court judgeship was left vacant by Judge Jean C. Logue, who was elected circuit judge for the 25th Judicial Circuit, Division 2, consisting of Clark and Madison counties.
The three attorneys named as nominees to fill the District Court vacancy are Garrett Turner Fowles, Charles William Hardin and Thomas Jackson Smith III, all of Richmond.
The District Court judgeship was left vacant by Judge William G. Clouse, who was elected circuit judge for the 25th Judicial Circuit, Division 1, consisting of Clark and Madison counties.
Nominees for Family Court judgeship
Christopher Micah Davis is an associate with the law firm of Grant, Rose & Pumphrey in Winchester and is first assistant county attorney in the Clark County Attorney’s Office. He earned his juris doctor at the University of Kentucky College of Law, graduating in 2000.
Ira Dean Newman was an attorney for the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky from 1977 to 2008. He earned his juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law, graduating in 1977.
Nora Jeanne Shepherd is a partner in the law firm of Sword, Floyd & Moody PLLC in Richmond. She earned her juris doctor from the University of Louisville School of Law, graduating in 1995.
Nominees for District Court judgeship
Garrett Turner Fowles is an assistant county attorney in the Madison County Attorney’s Office in Richmond and is the attorney for the city of Richmond. He earned his juris doctor from the University of Louisville School of Law, graduating in 1979.
Charles William Hardin is an assistant county attorney in the Madison County Attorney’s Office in Richmond and is an attorney with the Marc Robbins Law Office. He earned his juris doctor from the Northern Kentucky University College of Law, graduating in 1996.
Thomas Jackson Smith III is an assistant commonwealth’s attorney with the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Clark and Madison counties, a position he has been in since 2005. He earned his juris doctor from the University of Louisville School of Law, graduating in 1974.
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 $4,000, capital offenses and felonies, divorces, adoptions, termination of parental rights, land dispute title cases and contested probate cases. A division of Circuit Court, Family Court has primary jurisdiction in cases involving family issues, such as divorces, adoption, child support, domestic violence and juvenile status offenses.
District Court is a court of limited jurisdiction which hears civil cases involving $4,000 or less, juvenile matters, city and county ordinances, misdemeanors and cases relating to domestic violence and abuse, guardianships for disabled people, traffic offenses, small claims, probate of wills and felony preliminary hearings.
Administrative Office of the Courts
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.