LawReader Discusses the Qualifications of Candidates for the Court of Appeals in the Six Contested Races

By LawReader Senior Editor (and retired Judge) Stan Billingsley

LawReader is the only Kentucky based complete source for on-line legal research. LawReader has a policy of not endorsing candidates for public office. However there are some issues being discussed among by some judicial candidates which we think are of importance and in this article wish to comment on them. We will comment on the comparative qualifications of the candidates.

At LawReader we read every opinion rendered by the Kentucky Court of Appeals and the Kentucky Supreme Court and we publish a synopsis to those decisions on a weekly basis. This experience gives us a unique view of the work done by our appellate judges and their qualifications.

We would like to note that we cannot recall a better class of current Court of Appeals judges than we now have serving on the bench. Before the public should vote against a judge who is doing a good job we believe they should inform themselves about the qualifications of the candidates.

In order to be a candidate for the Court of Appeals a person must be a citizen of the United States, a resident of both the Commonwealth and of the district from which he is elected for 2 years next preceding his taking office and licensed to practice law in the courts of the Commonwealth, and a licensed attorney for at least 8 years. There are 7 judicial districts with each district having two Court of Appeals judges.

THERE ARE 14 KENTUCKY COURT OF APPEALS JUDGES. ONLY 6 INCUMBENTS ARE BEING OPPOSED IN THE MAY PRIMARY.

Judicial District and Division INCUMBENT CHALLENGER CHALLENGER
2nd/2nd
Judge Kelly Thompson Incumbent Opponent
Mark H. Flener
Opponent
Osi Onyekwuluje

3rd/1st
Judge Mike Caperton Incumbent Opponent
Debra Hembree Lambert

3rd/2nd
Judge James H. Lambert Incumbent Opponent Paul F. Henderson

4th/2nd
Judge Denise Guess Clayton Incumbent Opponent Stan Whetzel

6th/1st
Judge Allison Jones Incumbent (recently appointed by Governor Beshear) Opponent
Justin Sanders

7th/2nd
Judge Janet L. Stumbo Incumbent Opponent W. Kent Varney

In the 2nd Judicial District (Bowling Green – Southern Kentucky) Judge Kelly Thompson’s
performance as an appellate judge has been stellar. He has authored in excess of 500 majority opinions written with sound legal and practical reasoning and clarity. His dissents have been equally well written and thought provoking.

Judge Thompson has demonstrated his fairness to all litigants and approached his duties without regard to personal or political views. Through his 40 years as a civil and criminal attorney, he has not only gained the legal knowledge to ably serve on our Court of Appeals but also the practical knowledge to understand the consequences of judicial decisions for our businesses and citizens.

Judge Thompson’s opponents do not share his high level of legal experience and ability to deal with the myriad of cases before the Court of Appeals. We are informed that his opponent, Osi Onyekwuluje, has a very limited law practice.

Thompson’s second opponent, Mark Flener has specialized in bankruptcy for the past 25 years. With his legal experience focusing on the important but narrow area of Bankruptcy law his qualifications as a state appellate judge are justifiable questioned when compared to Judge Thompson. Mr. Flener’s lack of knowledge regarding Kentucky’s appellate process was exemplified in an interview with the Bowling Green Daily News on January 29, 2014, wherein Mr. Flener proposed implementing a mediation program at the state appeals court level as a means for cases to be resolved on appeal without the parties incurring too much additional expense. We note that a prehearing conference program has been in place on the state appellate level since 1978. This program serves as an appellate mediation program. During the life of the program, over 7,000 cases have settled through the prehearing conference program saving parties the additional expenses on appeal for all of these years. Flener apparently stubbed his toe when he called for a program which has been in existence for many years.

Judge Thompson has been an able Judge for seven years with extensive experience prior in his service as an appellate judge.

Judge Mike Caperton Incumbent in the 3rd District (South Central Kentucky) is opposed by former Judge Debra Hembree Lambert. Judge Caperton has authored several outstanding and far reaching decisions which uphold constitutional rights.

In the 4th. District, (Louisville) Judge Denise Guess Clayton is opposed by Stan Whetzel. Clayton has earned a very respected reputation as a Judicial leader and has authored numerous important decisions which demonstrate her ability as one of our finest judges. We don’t know much about Stan Whetzel.

In the 6th. district (Northern Ky. …Oldham to Campbell county,) Judge Allison Jones was recently appointed to fill a vacancy. She was appointed by Governor Beshear. Since her appointment she has authored a limited number of cases. Her residence in Oldham County suggests that her opponent Justin Sanders, an experienced trial lawyer, who resides in heavily populated Kenton County has a distinct advantage. Justin Sanders is well known in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties. Judge Jones has experience as an administrative law judge. Many attorneys in Northern Kentucky have expressed their concern that the election of Judge Jones “would be like giving Louisville a third Appellate judge at the expense of Northern Kentucky”. Judge Jones lives in Prospect which borders Jefferson County.

In the 7th. Judicial District (Eastern Kentucky) the incumbent is Judge Janet L. Stumbo. Judge Stumbo has an outstanding reputation for her well written decisions. Her years of tenure as an appellate judge have proven her to be one of our most respected judges. Her opponent W. Kent Varney. He is not well-known to us.

LawReader invites any candidate to these offices (or their supporters) to send their comments to us and we will publish them on Kentucky Legal News, a free public feature of www.LawReader.com.

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