Judicial Nominating Commission announces nominees for vacant Supreme Court seat

FRANKFORT, Ky., March 12, 2019 – The Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr., today announced nominees to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat in the 1st Supreme Court District. The district is composed of 24 Western Kentucky counties. The vacancy was created when Justice Bill Cunningham retired Feb. 1.

The three attorneys named as nominees to fill the vacancy are David Cowan Buckingham of Murray, Tyler Landthrip Gill of Allensville and Carla Rene’ Williams of Dixon.

Buckingham has served as of counsel for Adams Law Firm in Murray since 2011. He served as a Kentucky Court of Appeals judge from 1997-2005, a circuit judge for the 42nd Judicial Circuit from 1987-1996 and a district judge for the 42nd Judicial District from 1982-1986. The 42nd Circuit and District are made up of Calloway and Marshall counties. He earned his juris doctor from the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law.

Gill has served as a Circuit Court judge for the 7th Judicial Circuit (Logan and Todd counties) since 1995. He was a district judge for those counties from 1993-1995. He received his juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law.

Williams has served as a Circuit Court judge for the 5th Judicial Circuit (Crittenden, Union and Webster counties) since November 2004. She has been the chief regional circuit judge for the Purchase Region since Chief Justice Minton appointed her in 2007. She was a district judge for the three counties from January 1990-November 2004.

Supreme Court
The Supreme Court is the state court of last resort and the final interpreter of Kentucky law. Seven justices sit on the Supreme Court and all seven justices rule on appeals that come before the court. The justices are elected from seven appellate districts and serve eight-year terms. A chief justice, chosen for a four-year term by fellow justices, is the administrative head of the state’s court system and is responsible for its operation. The Supreme Court may order a ruling or opinion to be published, which means that the ruling becomes the case law governing all similar cases in the future in Kentucky.

Judicial Nominating Commission
The Judicial Nominating Commission helps fill judicial vacancies by appointment when a vacancy occurs outside of the election cycle. The Kentucky Constitution established the JNC. Ky. Const. § 118; SCR 6.000, et seq.

Judicial Nominating Process
When a judicial vacancy occurs, the executive secretary of the JNC publishes a notice of vacancy in the judicial circuit or the judicial district affected. Attorneys may 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 the governor for review. The governor has 60 days to appoint a replacement and his office makes the announcement.

Makeup of the Judicial Nominating Commission
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.

Administrative Office of the Courts
The Administrative Office of the Courts in Frankfort is the operations arm for the state court system. The AOC supports the activities of more than 3,400 court system employees and 404 elected justices, judges and circuit court clerks. As the fiscal agent for the state court system, the AOC executes the Judicial Branch budget.

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