Procedure that will be followed to fill the Supreme Court vacancy that will exist after June 30th due to the resignation of Chief Justice Joseph Lambert.

By LawReader Senior Editor Stan Billingsley                               April 28, 2008

Will the next member of the Ky. Supreme Court be from Bardstown, Lebanon, Somerset,  Burkesville or some other Kentucky community?  The district from which the replacement Justice will be selected covers a large portion of south central Kentucky.

The nomination process will be headed up by the next Chief Justice who will be selected before the effective date of Justice Lambert’s resignation.  He has stated that he will call for an election of the Chief Justice before he resigns, and therefore will have one of the four votes necessary to select the next Chief Justice.

If you have an interest in becoming one of Kentucky’s seven Supreme Court Justices, you should submit your name to the Judicial Nominating Commission.

The vacancy on the Supreme Court will occur on June 27th. due to the announced resignation of Chief Justice Joseph Lambert.  His district is the 3rd. Judicial District.

There are 27 counties in the Third Supreme Court Judicial District: Adair, Bell, Casey, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Estill, Garrard, Green, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Lee, Leslie, Lincoln, Marion, McCreary, Metcalfe, Monroe, Nelson, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Russell, Taylor, Washington, Wayne, and Whitley Counties.

Any attorney who has been licensed for eight years, and is a resident of the 3rd. Supreme Court Judicial District is eligible to be appointed to the Supreme Court. There is no requirement that a nominee have any prior judicial experience.

Two potential candidates for the vacancy created by the resignation of Chief Justice Joseph Lambert, and who may be considered are the sitting Court of  Appeals judges from the 3rd. Judicial District: Michael Caperton - 3rd District, 1st Division and James H. Lambert - 3rd District, 2nd Division.  James H. Lambert is the brother of Chief Justice Joseph Lambert.  Both Ct. of Appeals Judges have served only a short time.

When a vacancy occurs in a judicial office, the Chief Justice is required to give notice of the vacancy to “alert the general public‿.  An applicant can call the KBA at (502) 564-3795 to find the names and addresses of the current members of the Judicial Nomination Commission, to submit his/her name as an interested applicant.  This can also be accomplished by submitting a letter of interest to the next Chief Justice.

Having gone through this process ourselves, we recommend that an interested nominee write or contact each member of the nominating commission and express their interest in the nomination.  We would caution against any hard core campaigning for the vacancy.  A simple letter expressing your interest and perhaps listing your resume would be appropriate.

A questionnaire will be sent out to applicants. This information will be provided to the members of the appropriate Nominating Commission.  The Chief Justice will call a meeting of the commission and they may consider the people who have submitted an application, OR ANYONE ELSE.  Even if a person has not submitted a request to be considered, and has failed to return the questionnaire, they can still be considered by the Nominating Commission.  The Commission itself can generate a name irrespective or any time limits.

The Commission then forwards up to three nominees they select to the Governor.  The Governor has 60 days to select a nominee from the list of names submitted to him.  Some commissions have sent less than three names, but that practice has been criticized as a ruse to limit the Governor’s options.  If the Governor fails to select a nominee during this period, then the Chief Justice is empowered to fill the vacancy.

Once the Governor selects a nominee, that person must only be sworn in by a person authorized to administer an oath, and they then take office. A preferred procedure would be to be sworn in by the Chief Justice in a ceremony at Frankfort.  We would expect that this process to fill the vacancy will take 60 to 90 days, and the replacement Justice should be in office by late August or early September.

The nominee holds the office until the next general election, and then must run for the balance of the unexpired term to which he/she was appointed.  Any one wishing to run for the election for the unexpired term must file for the Nov. election as soon as there is a vacancy.  You should contact the Sec. of State for filing details.

The person appointed by the Gov. must also file for the Nov. election if they want to extend their term past November.

The members of the  Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Nominating Commission will make the decision as to the nominees to be recommended to the Governor.  Some Commission members will be up for election this November, but this vacancy will be filled by current members whose term has not yet expired

There is a separate Judicial Nomination Commission for Appellate judges.  The current members are listed below.

There are two vacancies on the Commission who will be appointed by Governor Beshear before the next meeting of the Commission.  Chief Justice Lambert will be replaced by whomever is elected by the other Supreme Court Justices as the new Chief Justice. Justice Lambert has indicated he plans to call for an election of the new Chief Justice before he retires. 


Hon. Joseph E. Lambert, Chair
Chief Justice, Supreme Court
Room 231 – Capitol Building
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
Phone: 502/564-4162 (Business)
 Hon. Charles E. English, Sr.
Attorney at Law
1101 College Street
                                     Bowling Green, Kentucky 42101
                                     Phone:  270/781-6500 (Business)
 Hon. John T. Ballantine
Attorney at Law
2000 PNC Plaza
500 W. Jefferson St.
Louisville, KY  40202
Phone: 502/582-1601 (Business)
 Jeff Farmer
400 Michigan Avenue
Elizabethtown, KY  42701
Phone: 270/769-0975
(Term Expires:  January 1, 2010)
  Eunice D. Montfort
210 Fairway Drive
Frankfort, KY 40601
Phone: 502/695-8005 (Residence)
502/223-5754 (Business)
(Term Expires:  January 1, 2010)
 Phyllis Liebman
453 Blackfoot Trail
Frankfort, KY  40601
Phone: 502/695-1484 (Residence)
(Term Expires:  January 1, 2008)
 John McIntosh
176 Cherokee Park
Lexington, KY  40503
Phone: 859/276-2715 (Residence)
 859/335-8151 (Business)
(Term Expires: January 1, 2008)

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