FRANKFORT, Ky., Feb. 21, 2020 – The Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr., today announced nominees to fill the Circuit Court judicial vacancy for Lincoln, Pulaski and Rockcastle counties. The counties make up the 28th Judicial Circuit and the vacancy is in the circuit’s Division 1.
The three nominees for the Circuit Court judgeship are attorneys Jerry Jones Cox of Brodhead, William Matthew Thompson II of Somerset and Teresa Kay Whitaker of Science Hill.
Cox has a solo law practice and has served as an attorney for 52 years. He is president of the Public Advocacy Commission. He received his juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law.
Thompson is the senior partner in Thompson & Thompson, his family operated law firm. From 2013-2017, he served as an assistant county attorney for Lincoln County and as an assistant commonwealth’s attorney for the 28th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Lincoln, Pulaski and Rockcastle counties. He received his juris doctor from Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law.
Whitaker served as an attorney for the Department of Public Advocacy for nearly 28 years, retiring in 2019 from the position of capital trials manager. She received her juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law.
The judicial seat became vacant when Judge David A. Tapp resigned Nov. 22, 2019, to accept an appointment as a federal court judge for the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
Circuit Court is the court of general jurisdiction that hears civil matters involving more than $5,000, capital offenses and felonies, divorces, adoptions, termination of parental rights, 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 406 elected justices, judges and circuit court clerks. As the fiscal agent for the state court system, the AOC executes the Judicial Branch budget.