FRANKFORT, Ky., Dec. 19, 2017 – The Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr., today announced nominees to fill two upcoming judicial vacancies in Fayette County. The vacancies will be in the 22nd Circuit’s Division 1-Family Court and Division 3-General Jurisdiction Circuit Court. The seats will become vacant Dec. 31 with the retirements of Family Court Judge Timothy N. Philpot and Circuit Court Judge James D. Ishmael.
Nominees for Family Court Judgeship
The three nominees for the Family Court judgeship are attorneys Carl D. Devine, Elizabeth “Libby” Green Messer and Eileen Mary O’Brien, all of Lexington. They each received their juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law.
Devine practices law with the firm of Miller, Griffin & Marks, where he focuses on domestic relations law.
Messer is the lead prosecutor for the Juvenile Division of the Fayette County Attorney’s Office.
O’Brien is a member with the firm of Stoll Keenon Ogden, where she handles family law, general civil litigation and mediation.
Family Court is a division of Circuit Court and has primary jurisdiction in cases involving family issues, including divorces, adoption, child support, domestic violence and juvenile status offenses.
Nominees for Circuit Court Judgeship
The three nominees for the Circuit Court judgeship are attorneys Todd Smith Page, John Edward Reynolds and Lucy Anne Ferguson VanMeter, all of Lexington. They each received their juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law.
Page is a member with the firm of Stoll Keenon Ogden, where he focuses on civil litigation.
Reynolds is a solo practitioner and handles cases involving civil litigation, criminal defense, family law, probate and personal injury.
VanMeter is a member with the firm of Stoll Keenon Ogden, where she focuses on civil litigation, and is president of the Fayette County Bar Association.
Circuit Court is the court of general jurisdiction that hears civil matters involving more than $5,000, capital offenses and felonies, land dispute title cases and contested probate cases.
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 nearly 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.