Kentucky Court of Justice
Judicial Nominating Commission announces nominees for vacant judgeship in Bell County
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr., today announced the nominees to fill the vacant circuit judgeship in the 44th Judicial Circuit, which serves Bell County.
The three attorneys named as nominees to fill the vacancy are Robert Bruce Bowling, Robert V. Costanzo and Robert Terry Yoakum, all of Middlesboro.
The Circuit Court judgeship was left vacant by Judge James L. Bowling Jr., who resigned Jan. 30 to join the Senior Judges Program.
Robert Bruce Bowling is a law partner with Bowling and Yoakum Law Office in Middlesboro and is the Middlesboro city attorney. He earned his juris doctor at the University of Louisville law school, graduating in 1988.
Robert V. Costanzo is a Bell County District Court judge, a position he has held since 1999. He earned his juris doctor at the Northern Kentucky University law school.
Robert Terry Yoakum is a law partner with Bowling and Yoakum Law Office in Middlesboro. He earned his juris doctor at the Northern Kentucky University law school, graduating in 1999.
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 and district judges who are appointed to fill vacancies and wish to try to retain their seats will run for elected office in 2010. The regularly scheduled election for district judges is in 2010. District judges serve four-year terms. The next regularly scheduled election for circuit judges is in 2014. Appointees to circuit judgeships must run for election in 2010 and 2014. Circuit judges serve eight-year terms. The election schedule can be found on the Kentucky Secretary of State Web site.
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.
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.