FRANKFORT, Ky., Feb. 24, 2020 – The Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr., today announced nominees to fill the vacant District Court judgeship in Daviess County. Daviess makes up the 6th Judicial District and the vacancy is in the district’s Division 1.
The three nominees for the judgeship are attorneys Misty L. Miller of Maceo, James Nicholas Payne of Owensboro and Jason James Pfeil of Owensboro.
Miller has served as an assistant county attorney for Daviess County for more than 14 years, represents the Daviess County Public Administrator in probate cases and has a private law practice. She received her juris doctor from Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law.
Payne has served as an assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Daviess County for 18 years and previously worked with Fayette County Legal Aid. He received his juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law.
Pfeil has served as a public defender for the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy for 19 years and was president of the 56th Circuit Bar Association (Caldwell, Livingston, Lyon and Trigg counties) from 2017-2019. He received his juris doctor from Marquette University Law School.
The judicial seat became vacant when Judge Lisa Payne Jones was sworn in Nov. 26 as a Circuit Court judge for Daviess County after being elected in the November general election.
District Court judges handle juvenile matters, city and county ordinances, misdemeanors, violations, traffic offenses, probate of wills, arraignments, felony probable cause hearings, small claims involving $2,500 or less, civil cases involving $5,000 or less, voluntary and involuntary mental commitments and cases relating to domestic violence and abuse.
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.