Kentucky Court of Justice
Judicial Nominating Commission announces nominees for vacant judgeship in Knox and Laurel counties
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr., today announced the nominees to fill the vacant district judgeship in the 27th Judicial District, Division 1, which serves Knox and Laurel counties.
The three attorneys named as nominees to fill the vacancy are Bridget Leigh Dunaway, Wendell Lewis “Skip” Hammons Jr. and Gilbert Edward Holland.
The District Court judgeship was left vacant by Judge John Knox Mills, who was elected as a circuit judge for the 27th Judicial Circuit, Division 2, which is comprised of Knox and Laurel counties.
Bridget Leigh Dunaway of London is a law partner in the firm of Taylor, Keller, Dunaway and Tooms PLLC in London. She earned her juris doctor at the University of Kentucky law school, graduating in 1989.
Wendell Lewis “Skip” Hammons Jr. of Barbourville is a solo law practitioner. He earned his juris doctor at the Northern Kentucky University law school, graduating in 1991.
Gilbert Edward Holland of Barbourville is the assistant county attorney for the Knox County Attorney’s Office. He earned his juris doctor at the Northern Kentucky University law school in 1997.
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.
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 approximately 3,800 Kentucky Court of Justice employees, including the elected offices of justices, judges and circuit court clerks.