Judicial races are on the ballot in the primary election on Tuesday, May 17. We just launched our first-ever judicial election guide to help you learn more about the candidates.

View the election guide at the very bottom of this page. Canidates are sorted by county and then by judicial race. All candidates in your county will appear on your ballot, but not all candidates are included in our guide because some did not respond to our questionnaire.

Judicial races often go unnoticed but are crucial to reforming our broken criminal legal system. These judges can reduce incarceration rates, help people seek treatment for substance use disorder, keep children out of adult prisons, and more. However, they could also make these problems even worse by increasing incarceration and denying people the support and rehabilitation they really need.

Our election guide covers candidates for state trial and appellate courts in Fayette and Jefferson Counties. The races specify different circuits and divisions. The candidates in a specific circuit and division will run against only the other candidates in that same circuit and division.

The guide is based on responses to a questionnaire developed by our legal team. It gauges candidates’ views on topics such as self-representation in court, how to best manage the backlog of cases due to COVID-19, police misconduct, and more.

The responses and non-responses are shared verbatim on our website without any editing. The ACLU of Kentucky is non-partisan, so we do not endorse candidates and do not encourage people to vote for any particular candidate. This guide is simply a survey we hope will give you some of the information you need to learn about the candidates and make an informed decision.

Election Day is Tuesday, May 17, 2022.

Early voting is open Thursday, May 12, through Saturday, May 14. You do not need an excuse to vote early in-person. Visit our Voter Information Center to learn more about voting, see where to vote, view a sample ballot, and more.

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We sent questionniares to 33 candidates running in state trial and appellate races in Fayette and Jefferson Counties. We received 24 responses. Some races are not listed in the election guide below because some races did not have a single candidate respond. All candidates, whether they replied or not, are listed in the two tabs at the end of the candidates responses. You should review a sample ballot to know exactly what to expect when you're in the voting booth. View a Fayette County ballot here and view a Jefferson County ballot here. Learn more at our Voter Information Center.

We started small with this election guide since it is our first. We hope to expand it to include races in more counties for future elections.

2022 Judicial Election Guide

List of all Fayette County Judicial Candidates

These are all of the candidates running in judicial races in Fayette County. All voters in Fayette County can vote in these races.

Candidates marked with an * did not respond to our questionnaire. Names are listed in alphabetical order and are spelled as they will appear on your ballot. Among Fayette County candidates, our questionnaire was sent only to candidates running in the 1st Division.

Circuit Judge, 22nd Judicial Circuit, 1st Division

  • Shannon L. Brooks
  • Denotra Gunther
  • Heather Vanderford Matics*

Circuit Judge, 22nd Judicial Circuit, 7th Division

  • Michael T. Davis
  • Kim Green
  • Diane Minnifield
  • Jeffrey A. Taylor
  • Kathryn Mattingly Webster

List of all Jefferson County Judicial Candidates

These are all of the candidates running in judicial races in Jefferson County. All voters in Jefferson County can vote in these races.

Candidates marked with an * did not respond to our questionnaire. Names are listed in alphabetical order and are spelled as they will appear on your ballot.

Judge of the Court of Appeals, 4th Appellate District, 2nd Division

  • McKenzie Cantrell
  • Annette Karem
  • Stan Whetzel*

Circuit Judge, 30th Judicial Circuit, 5th Division

  • Tracy Evette Davis
  • Christine Miller*
  • Mary M. Shaw

Circuit Judge, 30th Judicial Circuit, 7th Division

  • Melissa Logan Bellows*
  • Critt Cunningham
  • Theodore "Ted" Shouse

Circuit Judge, 30th Judicial Circuit, 9th Division

  • Tim Buckley
  • Sarah Clay
  • Nichole T. Compton*
  • Blaine Grant*
  • Alan L. Lani
  • F. Todd Lewis

Circuit Judge, 30th Judicial Circuit, 10th Division

  • Dorislee Gilbert (Our questionnaire was mistakenly not delivered to Dorislee Gilbert correctly. Gilbert would have participated had the survey been received by her campaign.)
  • Zackary "Zack" McKee
  • Patricia "Tish" Morris

District Judge, 30th Judicial Circuit, 4th Division

  • Yvette De La Guardia
  • Lora Chisholm Holman
  • Jennifer Murzyn Yancey

District Judge, 30th Judicial Circuit, 7th Division

  • Jacob E. Elder
  • Shannon Renee Fauver
  • Megan McDonald

District Judge, 30th Judicial Circuit, 8th Division

  • Lindsay Volk Beets
  • Karen Faulkner
  • Jessica Stone

District Judge, 30th Judicial Circuit, 15th Division

  • Samuel G. Hayward Jr.*
  • Claudette Patton
  • Mary Jude Wolford

Shannon Brooks, District Judge, Fayette County, 22nd Circuit, 1st Division

All Fayette County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Shannon L. Brooks, Denotra Gunther, and Heather Vanderford Matics. Vanderford Matics did not reply to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

If a self-represented litigant appeared before me, I would have a discussion with them to learn their background in order to find out their education level, understanding of the Court system, and to make sure that they understand the process and procedure.  It would be crucial to make sure that they have received as much guidance, either on their own, or through legal aid/public defender, in order to proceed in a knowledgeable manner.  I would make sure to speak to them and explain things on a level that would seem to meet their ability to understand.  I would also encourage them to seek counsel, and resources, at any moment that things seemed to be too complicated, or that their position is compromised because they do not have an attorney.  

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

I have had incarcerated family members and friends; however, not during the time that I was close with them.  During my service as a public defender, it has been important to me to reach out to family members of my clients, as the client will allow, or to answer any questions the family may have about their loved one's case.  Based on these communications, I have learned that the impact of family members being in jail on the family unit is tremendous, not only because of their physical absence, but because it increases financial instability.  For those who are paid hourly wages, missing days of work often means that they lose their job.  The trickle down from that is that housing is lost, utilities are cut off, regular/healthy meals are no longer, child care impossible.  There is a stigmatization that accompanies a family member being in jail/prison as well.  On the other extreme, some families of serious drug addicts, find a sense of relief to know that their family member is in jail and not dead or in danger.   As a judge, I would consider the greater impact on incarceration on the individual, and depending on the case, release them in order that they can keep their family unit functioning, and hopefully keep matters from becoming worse.  I will examine what issues surround their incarceration, and work to provide services and community resources to address that issue, whether mental illness or substance abuse.   I have spend thousands of hours in the jail visiting clients, and also have a keen awareness of the impact incarceration has on them.  I have learned that most are really good people, who have make incredibly bad decisions for a variety of reasons.  As a judge, I will continue to be mindful of this fact, and do what I can to find alternatives to incarceration in hopes of making their lives, and our community, a better place. 

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

Judges are not part of the negotiating process in criminal court.  However, it is imperative that judges are familiar with which charges create mandatory deportation, and prohibit reentry, so that they can discuss these collateral consequences with defendants who appear before them in court.  If the judge sees that a prosecutor systematically does not make reductions to charges with lessened immigration consequences, particularly for very minor misdemeanors, then I think that judges should inquire why this is happening.  

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

Patience!  I also think that creating special dockets, if possible, for certain types of cases may allow for the bulk of a docket to continue on at a more fluid pace. 

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

I definitely believe that police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs to be addressed.  Courts must create an environment where parties know that the law will be upheld and injustices will be addressed, especially when it comes to the police.  Judges must know the law; encourage attorneys to file motions; ask questions of the police and attorneys during hearings; and not be afraid to suppress any type of evidence that was gathered as a result of a constitutional violation.  Judges must be mindful of how police are treating individuals, and keep watch for those who are abusive.  I believe judges have a responsibility to say something to prosecutors and police supervisors once they identify an officer who participates in malfeasance.  

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

Judges can assist inmates in getting into programs in jail/prison by ordering them to complete them as part of their sentence, or prior to probation.  They can provide both defendants and their families with lists of community resources to assist in this process, including those focusing on employment, therapy, substance abuse, vocational training.  When probating people, they can be mindful of the struggle of addiction and institutionalization, and give second and third chances.  

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

I was a supervisor of one of the Lexington Public Defender offices for seven years.  During that time, I have had to handle hundreds of client complaints, as well as those from judges about how attorneys are presenting in Court.  To address these complaints, I met with both the attorney and the client to figure out what is going on.  Many times, the attorney was overburdened by his/her caseload, and simply needed a break from regular dockets to get caught up.  I was able to mediate the situation and comprise a game plan for the attorney to have certain tasks done by a certain timeframe, making sure that the client had no preconceived notions about an outcome.  In rare occasions, I would realize that the attorney was not being respectful and listening to the client's wishes for his case, or it would come to light that the personality conflict was too great to overcome.  In those instances, I would permit attorneys to switch out clients, and would monitor the process from there, making sure that the client had my phone number and felt comfortable calling me if there were further issues.  I would also have the attorney report to my his/her progress.   Judges need to keep an eye out for attorney misconduct.  However, it is important for judges to be mindful as to the reasons for the perceived misconduct.  Judges should feel free to communicate with attorneys about the issues they witness in Court, and work to achieve a solution. 

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

To help relieve over-population in Kentucky's jails, judges can provide reasonable bail, reduce time spend in custody for probation violations, and work to get folks into specialty courts.  Judges do not always have to utilize cash bail to insure folks come back to Court, they can utilize home incarceration, electronic monitoring, surety bonds, unsecured bonds, and releasing folks on their own recognizance.  Judges can add conditions to bail to make sure that some of the prosecutor/community concerns are addressed such as drug testing, drug counseling, mental health assessments, requiring job applications, and proof of community service, to name a few.  Judges can instruct probation officers to put folks who have violated their probation on the dockets more quickly so that a determination can be made, and services provided if alternatives to incarceration are possible.  Judges can remain knowledgeable about programs and community services that may act as alternatives to incarceration and lean towards those when viable options to incarceration. 

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

I think that if more mediation had been implemented in criminal cases during the pandemic, it would have helped out many and alleviated much of the backlog of criminal created by COVID.

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

The causes of the high rates of minority incarceration are rooted in systemic failures of our society traditionally monopolized by white entitlement.  These include disproportionate access to have excellent public schools to attend, safe neighborhoods, two parent households (one parent not incarcerated), college as a realistic possibility, quality health care, to name a few.  Also, there is disproportionate policing of minorities that further fuels the disparity.  Judges can be mindful of disproportionate policing; give fair and equal sentences and bail; provide services and access to community resources to those in need.  Judges need to listen to what people are telling them is going on in their worlds, and work within communities where they can to make things better.  

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

The Constitution provides that all citizens shall have access to legal representation in criminal cases.  The quality of that varies due to public defender systems being overburdened due to a lack of resources and attorneys to provide the best possible representation.  The same holds true for legal aid groups, who attend to civil cases - not enough resources to fund enough attorneys to provide the best representation possible.   As a judge, I will only appoint a public defender to those who truly cannot afford an attorney.  Oftentimes, judges will appoint public defenders to get people through the system faster, not because they are truly indigent or are facing jail time.  I will refer people to our new self-help area of the courthouse, where many of their answers may be found.  That all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system is important to me because it permits people a way to maintain their dignity as they move through the system.  I will do what I can.

Denotra Gunther, District Judge, Fayette County, 22nd Circuit, 1st Division

All Fayette County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Shannon L. Brooks, Denotra Gunther, and Heather Vanderford Matics. Vanderford Matics did not reply to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

I first determine if Counsel can be appointed.  I then have the litigant complete a form to see if Counsel can be appointed without or at minimal cost.  If it is a matter in which Counsel can not be appointed, I ask the litigant if they intend to hire Counsel.  If the litigant is proceeding pro se, I explain the process.  I continually ask the litigant if he or she has any questions along the way.  

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

I had a close family member incarcerated on a serious offense that he still denies.  I believe that military service during combat affected his mental health.  I am very sensitive to how incarceration is merely punishment and without some type of treatment, counseling, etc. to address the reasons why the person is incarcerated, recidivism will likely result.  Therefore, to the extent my discretion allows, I impose sentences that balance punishment, safety of the community and the needs of the defendant with available resources.  

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

It is the responsibility of judges to follow the law first and foremost and always.  I use my discretion to the extent allowed the same as in any other case that does not involve defendants that may have an immigration issue.  I always appoint Counsel to the defendant to ensure the language and cultural barriers are overcome and the defendant thoroughly understands the process and consequences of the court proceedings.  I always accept the recommendations of the prosecutor and the plea agreement reached if it specifically is designed to avoid deportation.  It is not my role to be an agent for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

Our courts continued with very little break during the pandemic, therefore the impact of such in my Division is low. For those cases that could not be handled remotely, specifically jury trials, I am scheduling those cases first for trial when the litigants are ready to proceed.  I am not and will not push a case before all parties are ready to proceed for the purpose of moving it off docket.  

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

Police misconduct involves criminal behavior and should be addressed in the same manner as any other crime.  When such does not rise to the level of a crime or is not charged and/or prosecuted as a crime, the courts should use any discretion within its jurisdiction and view the evidence resulting from such through a different lens to ensure fairness.  

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

Judges have discretion to order treatment and education as part of sentencing to help the litigant obtain the necessary resources to have successful re-entry and decrease the possibility of recidivism.  

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

I have not had to address an attorney's misconduct as a judge.  However, I will take the appropriate steps mandated by our ethical rules and canons to report such to ensure the litigant's rights are protected and the reputation of our profession is preserved.  As an attorney, I was concerned about a colleague's substance abuse that was affecting her work.  I contacted the Lawyers Assistance Program, which is through the Bar Association and is completely confidential and not punitive, to ascertain the steps needed to get her the help she needed.  I feel it is incumbent upon each member of the Bar to be mindful and concerned about each other.  

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

Judges can specifically reduce over-population in jails by alternative sentencing, i.e. probation, inpatient treatment, home detention, serving on weeks, and/or a hybrid of alternative sentencing approaches.  

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

It is my personal opinion that the federal government, our Governor, and the Kentucky Supreme Court were creative and proactive with the executive and administrative orders and rules that were instituted to keep us all safe during the pandemic and I do not feel that anything was lacking.  

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

Without a doubt, the high rate of minority incarceration that is disproportionate to the community population is due to systemic racism and implicit bias.  A judge has to first recognize that disproportionate incarceration exists, acknowledge the reasons for it, and address it using the discretion within its jurisdiction and by calling it out on the record when defendants are treated differently for the same offense with a similar history.  

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

I do not believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system as such most times is restricted due to lack of personal resources, race, culture, language barriers.  As a judge who can not advocate for a litigant, I appoint counsel each and every time that I can to ensure that the litigant has an advocate.  I ensure that pro se clients understand the process and system and suggest outside resources that can assist them.  I require the same level of care and diligence by counsel to the litigants that they represent, regardless of race, gender, age, socio-economic status, alienage, national origin, sexual orientation or identity or religion.  

McKenzie Cantrell, Judge of the Court of Appeals, Jefferson County, 4th District, 2nd Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are McKenzie Cantrell, Annette Karem, and Stan Whetzel. Stan Whetzel did not reply to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

I would try to follow guidance from the American Bar Association's Statement of Principles on Self-Represented Litigants and Accused Persons on handling self-represented litigants, which is do whatever is possible to provide a fair process and prevent unfair disadvantage. Someone’s claim should not be denied outright on the basis of a minor defect. At the same time, I would also be firm that self-represented litigants must familiarize themselves with relevant practices and procedures, be prepared to meet deadlines, and to be respectful of court processes. It is a delicate balance between making sure everyone’s arguments are heard by the court, but also a judge cannot cross the line into providing legal advice. 

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

I have never been incarcerated or had anyone with whom I had a close relationship be incarcerated. However, we have all been touched by crime, mental illness, substance use disorder and its affects in our families, extended networks and society. I have been in several detention centers in Kentucky as a part of my legal studies and practice and service in the Kentucky legislature. I understand the severity of depriving someone of their liberty. The Court of Appeals is also a little different because instead of setting a sentence of incarceration I will be reviewing the sentencing court's decision for potential errors. It could still determine how much time someone spends incarerated, and I will take that responsibility seriously. I have had this responsibility already. Some of the sentencing and classification of felonies is set by statute, and I have been a part of amending those statutes as a member of the legislature and a member for the House Judiciary Committee for the past six years. 

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

It is likely that any proceedings relating to a non-citizen's violation of state law and any resulting federal action would have taken place by the time the matter would reach the Court of Appeals, but there is a role for lower court judges and law enforcment in that instance,[.] [sic]

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

Everyone has had to handle more responsibilities with fewer resources and during COVID, and the courts are no exception. The public expects case[s] to be resolved timely, but timeliness cannot be sacrificed for accuracy when it comes to court opinions. I have seen what happens when government moves too fast in Frankfort, and the results can be equally disastrous and time consuming. I'm no stranger to hard work, so I am confident that I can make a plan to work with my new colleagues to provide an efficient system of justice. 

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

Yes, judges need to rely on law enforcement when signing warrants and providing accurate information both during investigations and during prosecution of individuals for crimes. There are consequences in the law for all different types of misconduct, and our society is grappling all over the country with accountability for misconduct. It is not solely a judge's responsibility to solve this issue, but judges are responsible for holding individuals convicted of crimes responsible for their actions. 

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

Accountability and connections to employment and services are vitally important to someone who has been recently incarcerated. Many people are recovering from substance use disorder, need mental health treatment, or need to stay on a medication or treatment regimen. The role of judges in that process is that many recently incarcerated individuals are on some kind of supervised release and must meet conditions to continue to remain out of custody. Ensuring that people are doing what they can to re-enter society and providing consequences when they aren't is a substantial role for some courts. 

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

Attorneys have an obligation to report the misconduct of other attorneys. The best thing to do in that situation is to get advice from fellow attorneys or the bar association if there is any question about whether to report. 

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

Taxpayers spend close to a billion dollars a year housing Kentucky inmates, and society bears a great cost in incarcerating the parents of children almost more than any other state in the country. The vast majority of incercerated [sic] individuals will eventually re-enter society, so any program designed to help someone pursue a life outside jail or prison (education, skills training, substance use treatment, mental health treatment, housing, employment, etc.) without committing further crimes and the various types of supervised release is a step in the right direction. 

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

I wish that more courts across the state had been prepared to implement a uniform remote system with links to proceedings that were more easily accessible to all attorneys, litigants and the public. It varied by county what platform (Skype, Zoom, in person, etc.) each court was using, and you kind of had to be an insider to know what was going on and when. 

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

There is a lot of data available from the Administrative Office of the Courts about who is incercerated [sic]in Kentucky and for what amount of time and for what crimes. It is good to take a step back and review trends in the county and state to be sure sentences of incarceration are being handled without regard to race, geography or other factors. 

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

No, but I have worked almost my entire legal career for a low income legal services organization to be sure that my clients had good representation. I speak Spanish, and I have seen how much language is a barrier for litigants who do not speak Englsih [sic]. I am very passionate about language improving access and other issues creating barriers to low income and immigrant litigants and will always work toward making the legal process available to all. 

Annette Karem, Judge of the Court of Appeals, Jefferson County, 4th District, 2nd Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are McKenzie Cantrell, Annette Karem, and Stan Whetzel. Stan Whetzel did not reply to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

I have been a District Court Judge for 15 years and in that time have facilitated hearings, trials and other court proceedings.  It is not unusual for self-represented litigants to come before me and when they do, I understand my roll includes answering questions, explaining processes and helping them understand the technical, sometimes confusing, rules.  I remain patient while both answering any questions they may have and asking questions when appropriate.  I will continue to treat self-represented litigants respectfully and ensure their rights are protected.  

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

Fortunately, no one close to me has ever been incarcerated.  However, I have had friends whose children have been victims of addiction and incarcerated for crimes they committed under the influence, or in search of a means to pay for illicit drugs through theft.  Additionally, as a Domestic Violence Prosecutor, I worked with victims of crimes who dealt with the consequences of unemployment or housing loss as a result of their abusers crimes and subsequent incarceration.  My combined experience in the judicial system gives me a unique understanding of the harsh consequences of incarceration and makes me the best candidate in my race.  

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

As a District Court Judge I understand that the law requires that every non-citizen defendant  understand the consequences of the choices they make when resolving their case. For 15 plus years as a sitting judge, I have ensured that non-citizen defendants understand the potential consequences of a plea deal and have made sure they have adequate representation for the plea or trial.  

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

When I was elected to serve as the Chief District Court Judge in January of 2021 there was a significant backlog of cases due to COVID-19.  By working closely with our justice partners, the backlog was entirely eliminated.  I will apply the same sense of dedication and urgency that I used in District Court to address any backlog that may exist at the Court of Appeals.  

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

Every occupation has both good and bad actors whether it is the police, doctors or plumbers and the justice system is designed to address bad actors in any roll.  It is especially important for a judge to understand the unique legal issues regarding cases involving the police.  The case, Brady v. Maryland holds that the government has a duty to disclose material exculpatory evidence and failure to do so violates the due process rights of a defendant.  The Court of Appeals must review all cases brought before it with an understanding of the law and most importantly review the case with an open mind without any bias to either party. 

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

The job of a judge at the Court of Appeals is very different from that of a trial judge in that there is no direct connection with the case and no ability to effect the conditions a defendant would be subjected to for re-entry following incarceration.  However, as a sitting District Court Judge I have ordered many forms counseling in the hopes of reducing recidivism and address drug and alcohol addiction.  In addition, I order releases for job search and work when it is appropriate to help increase the likelihood a defendant can maintain employment upon release.  

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

The Rules of Professional Responsibilities and the Judicial Canons mandate the reporting of any attorney or judicial misconduct.  I will continue to abide by these ethical responsibilities as expected of any lawyer or judge.

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

It is important for a judge to use all the tools available to them to ensure only the most dangerous inmates and those that refuse to return to court are housed in jail.  Due to the spread of Covid-19 and staffing issues, the city closed the corrections facility in Louisville that was used to house inmates and also allowed them to participate in out-of-custody counseling and continue to work.  This facility was an important option for those inmates that could not participate in home incarceration due to housing issues.  I will continue to advocate for the reopening of this facility to give judges more options when considering the bond of a defendant.  

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

I believe the judiciary in Jefferson County handled the Covid pandemic in the most expeditious and exemplary way possible.  In fact, all 3 of the Chiefs in the Jefferson Trial Courts received the honor of Judge of the Year from the Louisville Bar Association for the manner in which they handled the situation. Neither the Hall of Justice nor the Judicial Center was ever fully closed.  Cases continued to be heard remotely until it was possible to bring people back into the buildings.  The ability of the judiciary to pivot and adjust to allow the wheels of justice to continue turning was unprecedented.  

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

As a District Court Judge I participated in training to understand Disproportionate Minority Contact.  I understand the complicated interaction between social issues and minority incarceration.  I was a member of the Formation Committee for  Restorative Justice Louisville which helped bring Restorative Justice to Jefferson District Juvenile Court.  It is through programs like these that we can reduce the numbers of minorities incarcerated.  I believe all judges should receive education on these issues and educate themselves on the alternatives to incarceration.  

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

As a sitting District Court Judge I see the continued need for adequate access to legal help.  I encourage litigants to reach out to entities such as Legal Aid who may be able to help them.  I encourage litigants to expunge their records as soon as possible to minimize obstacles to employment.  As the Chief District Court judge I have worked with judicial partners to establish an Amnesty Court to help those who are eligible to resolve cases currently in bench warrant status without the need for them to be arrested.  It is incumbent on every judge to help litigants who come before them to understand the law and make sure each litigant has adequate representation.  

Tracy Davis, Circuit Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 5th Division.

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Tracy Evette Davis, Christine Miller, and Mary Shaw. Miller did not reply to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

Self- represented litigants have the right to represent themselves but must understand that they are held at the same caliber as those licensed to practice law. My approach would be to be patient and to understand fully what they are requesting from the courts and to try to expedite the case within the lines of the law without prejudicing the opposing side. Often times extensions and continuances may be requested or necessary to allow filings to be done within the laws of procedure. I will be thorough in making sure the litigants understand my rulings and the reasoning behind them to effectively litigate their own cases. Not everyone has the luxury or ability to afford to hire private counsel and we know that there are limited circumstances where the public defender can be appointed or where legal aid is able to take on a case. So patience and diligence in explaining the law fully while keeping the docket flowing would be my ultimate goal. 

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

Being incarcerated is a big deal. It leaves you feeling hopeless and helpless regardless of what landed you in jail. You have no access to money, your contact list, and you are only allowed one free phone call. The impact can be life changing. We must remember that jail is typically used to hold someone and keep the community safe pending the outcome of a case being adjudicated or a person is punished with 365 days or less for a misdemeanor criminal offense. Prison is used to punish and reform. When an opportunity arises for a person to be active in the community and working to take care of themselves, their families, and to afford their legal fees we should weigh that against the possible safety concerns for the community. More often than not people are held in jail due to poverty not risk of danger to the public. Being poor is not a crime. We need to make sure that the wealthy are being treated the same as those less fortunate. 

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

Unfortunately, there is not a lot a judge can do from the state Circuit Court bench regarding federal immigration laws. What we can do is make an effort to resolve the cases as quickly as possible and assure that bail is set at a reasonable level to assure their return just as we would with any other litigant before the courts.  

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

I believe that the utilization of more technology in the courtroom would have greatly assisted with this issue and we would not have had the back log if we better utilized programs such as zoom especially in circuit court.  I plan to utilize and issue pre-rulings per documents filed prior to Motion Hour, and if there is an issue that briefly needs to be address or argued then attorneys can request that the case can be called. In addition I plan to have all Civil Motion Hour done on zoom unless there is a pro se litigant or an issue that should be addressed briefly in person. Case management conferences, and other issues that would not require the risk of someone being taken into custody can also be address (sic) via zoom so as to keep things moving along expediently and proficiently. 

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

Police misconduct puts the safety of all citizens at risk. A simple mistake or overlooking a procedural step can allow violent offenders the legal right to be released. It is paramount they (sic) we all, not just police officers, do our jobs in the legal system with attention to detail and always keeping in my (sic) the goal before us which is equal justice for all and the safety of our community. If an officer commits an offense or an alleged crime whether on duty or off duty they should be treated as any other person who had done the same. Sovereign immunity could possibly be reviewed and instead putting the burden of proof for the immunity on the person requesting it rather than the other day (sic) around. If everything is done correctly and in order there should be no issue in granting immunity when it is justified.  

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

Judges can look at alternative programs and resources for those ready for re-entry. A person who is empowered and provided with opportunity to provide and care for themselves and their families and the means to get help when needed is far less likely to reoffend or fall back into an addictive lifestyle. In my opinion one of the most over looked class of persons that is discriminated against are those with criminal histories especially felony convictions. They are often looked at as the undesirables of society and no matter what they do to redeem themselves and pay their debt to society they are met with obstacles prevented (sic) them from being contributors to society. 

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

I am extremely fortunate to have not had that experience.

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

Judges play a large role in this. Most who are currently incarcerated in jails are those with non violent charges who can not afford their bonds. By looking extensively at the pre -trial report determination which determine (sic) the risk factors of an alleged offender to address bond and following those statutory guidelines we can keep jails from being over crowded, keep the department of corrections from being overworked while keeping the community safe.  

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

Many of the things put in place were good, but I believe that continued allowance for criminal defendants and litigants to appear remotely via video when they are out of custody should continue. In Circuit and District Court we need more collaboration with justice partners such as the Commonwealth and County attorneys. I would do away with the conference call line especially with criminal cases. It is extremely difficult to know when you are being talked to, what is being said, and when you are allowed to respond. Anything we can do to streamline the process for the people involved will decrease the back logs and allow everyone to be more involved in the process. 

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

Its (sic) systemic racism and unconscious bias. By doing unconscious bias training, diversity inclusion and belonging classes, and diversifying the bench we can reduce these numbers. A (sic) 18 year old black male is often referred to as a man while a 22 year old white male is called a kid. We need to allow the same amount of grace to all who appear before us in court. It starts with understanding who stands before you, what are their issues, beliefs, cultures, barriers, etc. What is the likelihood that they will repeat offend and why? Are there programs or alternatives that can be put into place.  

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

I do not believe all citizens have adequate access to the legal help and the legal system. I will make e (sic) sure that any indigent client has the appointment of a public defender in criminal cases, I will also utilize technology to assure that clients can log into zoom so as to not have the barrier of transportation or risk of losing their jobs to appear in court for 10 minutes or less in motion hour or on a pre trial conference. 

Mary Shaw, Circuit Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 5th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Tracy Evette Davis, Christine Miller, and Mary Shaw. Miller did not reply to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

As a sitting judge for over 15 years I always treat everyone with fairness and respect.  I am not allowed to give legal advice to people who are representing themselves, but I always allow them to ask procedural questions and take the time to make sure they understand what I am saying.

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

I have never been incarcerated, but I have been a judge for over 15 years and know how being locked up impacts a person’s entire life.  I always keep that in mind and try to set reasonable bonds when necessary to ensure public safety and a person’s return to court.

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

When a non-citizen takes a plea in Division 5, I make sure that he or she has discussed deportation and other immigration consequences with counsel and understands  before I accept the plea.  If an interpreter is necessary, I always appoint one.

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

Fortunately, Division 5 continued to be open during the pandemic, conducting proceedings through zoom and other telephonic means.  Going forward, Division 5 will continue with a hybrid system of in-person and telephonic proceedings to keep things running smoothly.

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

Any police misconduct should be immediately addressed.  There is no room in the judicial system for any type of misconduct.  If a judge knows of or sees such misconduct, it is the judge’s duty to report it.

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

Being a volunteer Drug Court Judge for the last 14 years, I know that people need help with drug treatment, housing, counseling, education and medical treatment.   I make sure that defendants know how to get. In touch with resources and programs to set them up for success on probation. 

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

Luckily, I have never had to address this issue. If I knew of or saw any such misconduct, I would immediately report it to the Kentucky Bar Association.

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

Judges have the duty to release an individual or to set a reasonable bond reviewing community safety and the person’s likelihood of coming back to court.  I use every tool available to ease overcrowding including the home incarceration program, monitored conditional release program and surety and property bonds.

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

For the most part, I think Circuit Court did a good job handling the pandemic and its court cases.

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

Poverty, lack of educational and job opportunities, and the number of available resources to make a difference.  Judges need to be aware of this when setting reasonable bonds.

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

Everyone should have the same access to the court system, but poorer people have more issues obtaining counsel and the system is easier to navigate if you have counsel. I appoint counsel when the law allows me too.  

Critt Cunningham, Circuit Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 7th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Melissa Logan Bellows, Critt Cunningham, and Theodore "Ted" Shouse. Bellows did not reply to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

Respectfully, I will suggest that they consider hiring a professional defense attorney.  In Circuit Court the self-represented individual's liberty interest will likely be at risk; its (sic) unwise for anyone not to take full advantage of their constitutional right to console (sic).  I take pride in knowing that my father, Walker Cunningham Jr. as a member of the Louisville Crime Commission was heavily involved in the creation of the Louisville Public Defender's Office.  As such, I am keenly aware of the importance of free legal representation. Inability to pay should never be the reason for an individual's hesitancy to hire counsel.  Finally, I would make sure the individual has the competency to represent themselves if they will not listen to wisdom.  Ultimately, whether the individual self-represents, has appointed, hired, or shadow counsel, the rule of law and the courtroom will apply equally.  That is why the decision is so crucial. 

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

Empathy means you don't have to experience the source of pain others experience to know how it must feel.  As a prosecutor who works in Circuit Court everyday, I have to make tough decisions about when people do and do not go to prison most of the hours of my work day.  I rely on the statutory factors, my years of experience, and my knowledge of what harm may befall innocent victims if I fail to recognize and hold violent offenders accountable.  It is never a decision taken lightly.

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

I celebrate the diversity of our city.  I personally enjoy few things more than talking with someone who sees things differently than me or brings a new point of view to light. That is how both the city and I grow.  The consequences of a felony conviction are always manifold and drastic: loss of voting, loss of firearms, enhancement of future penalties, social stigma, and incarceration to name a few. It makes sense that it should be either violent-offenses or sex-offenses that primarily lead to deportation.  Deportation as a colleterial (sic) consequence is not worse than many of the direct consequences of crime. Regardless of consequence, a judge should show respect to everyone who appears before them. They should make sure that all Due Process and Constitutional Rights are provided to all defendants in every case.  Every defendant should get a fair trial.  I note with solemnity, it is often not a fun task to enforce the law whatever consequences are called for.  Undeniably, paths to citizenship are an important national issue that needs to be addressed in a reasonable and compassionate way.  Who gets deported and when likewise needs to be addressed in a reasonable and compassionate way .  But these are not decisions that a Circuit Judge is supposed to be making.

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

Courts should embrace newly employed technology.  And we should all take a deep breath and acknowledge that that speeding ticket from late 2019 might not belong on the front burner.

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

By definition, all 'misconduct' in our system needs addressing and not once to merely check a box, but constantly.  We must keep weeding our garden.  However, it is my belief, founded on experience that by and large our local police are highly dedicated people that serve the city and its people with honor and deserve respect. Consequently, I am proud to have law enforcement endorsement in this race.  I am also proud of our civil liberties and I see no conflict with valuing both. As for police, I have been privileged to lecture idealistic, new recruits at the Police Academy and I have been inspired by the discipline and heart of veteran, understaffed police grinding it out during a pandemic and during the difficult time of social unrest in our city.  When called upon, I have also carried out the rare and joyless task of prosecuting police, jail employees, and even other prosecutors.  'Misconduct' could mean many different things.  Once defined it would become clear who bears the responsibility of addressing it.  I have demonstrated that if called upon, I will do my part.

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

By making personal connections with program developers and community leaders, by learning from their feedback, and favoring the programs that work best.

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

With lawyers as with everyone else, the best first step is always to address an issue with the individual directly.  Sometimes, I find that I have mislabeled other people's motives or actions which is easy to do in an adversarial system.  If I'm not satisfied by the interaction, I will either go up the chain of command or alert others as to what is going on.

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

Keeping dockets on track reduces the number of people awaiting trial.

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

I think the courts responded as reasonably as they could have to a completely new situation.  Anybody could 'Monday Morning Quarterback' now and complain that changes didn't come about fast enough. But some changes take trial and error.  I feel like we got where we needed to go.

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

Economic disparity.  Education Disparity.  Opportunity Disparity.  Judges must be aware of their biases, guard against them, and promote justice in an unbiased manner.

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

I believe that even a completely equal system asks more of those who are underprivileged.  Ways that we can ask less without accepting less would be to adapt technically and maintain dockets that require people, especially hourly workers to miss no more time for court than is absolutely necessary.  And to make use of cheap and readily available translation technologies so that non-native English speakers have increased access.

Ted Shouse, Circuit Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 7th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Melissa Logan Bellows, Critt Cunningham, and Theodore "Ted" Shouse. Bellows did not reply to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

I have seen many people try to represent themselves in court. It is always a difficult situation. As their judge, I will go slow. I will explain the hazards clearly and carefully. I will suggest options: the public defender if they are a criminal defendant, Legal Aid or the lawyer referral office of the Louisville Bar Association if they are a civil litigant. Above all, I will treat the person with respect, dignity and patience. A courtroom can be a scary place for a non-lawyer - I will always keep that in mind.

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

While I have never been incarcerated, I have represented hundreds of incarcerated people over the past 23 years. I have grown close to many clients while working as a public defender, in private practice and for the Kentucky Innocence Project. I have witnessed the trauma of unnecessary incarceration. These experiences will inform my decision making process. Incarceration is the bluntest tool in a judge’s toolbox and should be reserved for those people who have been proven in court to be deserving of this punishment. Pre-trial incarceration - being jailed before a finding of guilt - should be reserved only for those who pose a danger to our community.

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

United States Supreme Court case law is clear. It is the responsibility of the judge to ensure that a criminal defendant understands the immigration consequences of being convicted of certain crimes. I will go slow and discuss in detail the possible immigration consequences of any action in a criminal case. I will ensure that the defendant’s lawyer has fully explained the immigration consequences to the defendant. Having represented many immigrant clients in criminal cases over the years, I understand how vital this is.

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

The backlog in Jefferson County is serious. Some people have been in jail far too long waiting for trials that have been delayed because of the pandemic. Trials must be scheduled as soon as possible. Cases should be prioritized by age; the oldest cases must be resolved first. Scheduling the criminal cases for pre-trial conferences as rapidly as possible will speed up the settlement of these cases. In-custody defendants should take priority. Judges must be prepared to work long hours to preside over these trials.

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

Any police misconduct is a serious violation of the public trust. Everyone has a role in addressing it. Judges have a unique responsibility to respond to police misconduct. Where judges become aware of misconduct either in the courtroom or outside it, they should report it to the proper authorities immediately. When that misconduct occurs in the courtroom, such as in the case of perjured testimony, a hearing should immediately held. If the perjury is proven, the full weight of the court’s contempt power should be brought to bear. Any instances of misconduct that go unanswered erode faith in the criminal justice system as a whole. Judges are gatekeepers of truth in court; this is one of the most important jobs a judge has.

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

The transition from prison or jail back into the community is difficult and perilous. Judges must understand the stresses on people re-entering the community. Judges decide whether probationers are sent to prison for violations of their probation. Not all violations are equal. Many people re-entering the community lack job skills, education, and community support, and suffer from a host of mental illnesses. Individual judges have a responsibility to understand these stressors when judging people who come before them. Judges should be intimately familiar with options other than incarceration and be prepared to use them. I plan on starting a second mental health court in Jefferson County as soon as I take office to avoid incarcerating mentally ill defendants in the first place.

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

From time to time I have suspected that an opponent in court has violated a rule in an attempt to gain an unfair advantage. When I have faced this situation I have immediately brought my concerns to the judge’s attention. In every case, the judge dealt with the infraction appropriately. Far more common for me has been representing clients who are in prison and whose prior lawyers did not defend the case with the diligence it required. In those cases I have been open and clear in my beliefs about what the earlier lawyer did wrong. I have brought all my concerns to the judge who handled the case and have had hearings to determine exactly what happened. These experiences will inform me as a judge - I will never allow any suspected lawyer misconduct to go uninvestigated. 

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

Bail reform is needed to help relieve the overcrowding of Kentucky’s jails. As the pro bono lawyer for The Bail Project since it came to Jefferson County, I know there are tools in place now that judges can use to lower the number of incarcerated people. The use of unsecured bonds (release without posting cash), using the Day Reporting Center and the Court Monitoring Center, are convenient, non-financial tools to keep tabs on people on pre-trial release. Using cash as the sole determinant of who gets out of jail is unfair. Wealthy people get out of jail and economically disadvantaged people stay in jail. This is not fair. Until meaningful bail reform can be accomplished, judges have a responsibility to incarcerate only those people who are a danger to the community. The tools are there, judges must use them.

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

A rule encouraging judges to closely monitor the functioning of their local jails and prisons would have been helpful and would have reduced the stress upon the criminal justice system.

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

Individual Judges must be aware that, systemically, Black and brown people are disproportionately charged with crimes and sentenced to longer terms in prison than white people. Systemic racial inequality is pervasive in our society. The courts are not immune. Indeed, the structure of the courts exacerbates this problem. By keeping these facts always in mind and addressing these very real inequalities on an individual case basis, systemic change can be accomplished one judge at a time.

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

No, the economically disadvantaged do not have adequate access to legal help.  First, I will recognize this simple, yet profound, truth. Second, I will actively encourage lawyers to take on pro bono cases. My pro bono practice has been the most rewarding part of my professional life. Third, we must make the courts more accessible to all people through meaningful community outreach. Clinics, workshops, meetings at which people have access to lawyers and judges. Judges have a very real responsibility to open the courts to every person, not just those who have money.

Timothy Buckley, Circuit Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 9th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Timothy Buckley, Sarah Clay, Nichole T. Compton, Blaine Grant, Alan L. Lani, and F. Todd Lewis. Compton and Grant did not reply to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

One of the most difficult issues facing a judge is how to handle unrepresented or self-represented litigants.  Parties may choose to represent themselves, or may have to represent themselves due to lack of resources to hire an attorney.  A judge's primary concern is to make sure that all parties receive due process of law, but do not unduly burden court resources or affect the rights of other parties.  As a judge, I would make sure that pro se litigants understand the hazards of self-representation.  A judge is required to make sure that any litigant is competent to represent him or her self.  In criminal cases, I would explain all options, including appointment of counsel, or standby counsel.. (sic)  I would also refer any pro se litigant to resources which may aid in their representation.  In addition, a judge may advise a pro se litigant on procedural matters. However, a judge must be careful not to try to represent the interests of a pro se litigant or advocate their case for them. 

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

I have a nephew and a former foster child who have both been incarcerated.  My nephew has chronic alcoholism which has led him to poor life choices.  He continues to get in legal trouble despite treatment.  My former foster child has been arrested several times on minor charges, but has faced difficulties in finding the money for bail.  My nephew has taught me that treatment and family support is important to recovery, but incarceration is sometimes necessary when an individual repeatedly engages in criminal behavior.  My experience with my former foster child has shown me that poverty makes it very difficult to navigate the legal system, even when charges are ultimately dismissed or reduced.  Both my nephew and my former foster child have made me aware of how important it is for a judge to consider all options in both bail and sentencing.

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

Most state court judges are not well versed in the details of immigration law, and thus may not be aware of the consequences of a conviction or guilty plea on a person's immigration status.  Likewise, many attorneys may not be aware of their client's status or the effect of a conviction.  I have seen many cases where a defendant pleaded guilty, only to face deportation years later.  A court may set aside a conviction if the defendant was not properly advised of the immigration consequences.  But there is a high burden of proving ineffective assistance of counsel.  A judge should be aware of such issues when accepting guilty pleas and take steps to make sure that a defendant has been properly informed of the potential consequences in pleading guilty.

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

The pandemic showed a light on many ongoing issues in the court system, particularly the backlog.  When the courts went entirely remote, delays increased.  Parties could not get trial dates, and even routine matters were passed.  The situation has improved recently, but trial courts are still working through the backlog.  This will take some time to work through, and there are structural issues in the courts which contribute to the delays.  However, trial courts have a number of tools to address this issue.  Effective docket management is crucial to keep matters moving.  The court has an obligation to conduct periodic reviews under CR 77.02 to ensure that cases are moving forward.  The court may also require the parties to file an AOC 270 notice, which imposes time limits on rulings on motions to dismiss and for summary judgment.  Continued use of remote hearings may also help to expedite routine hearings, since such matters may often be heard sooner.  A trial judge should also make sure that his or her staff is handling matters in a timely fashion, and a judge should make sure that the parties do not waste the court's time or resources.  Some cases are routinely referred for mediation, which can help.  But a judge should be aware that mediation often merely just delays the proceedings when the parties are not willing to compromise.

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

The police have an important role in our legal system.  In addition to their law enforcement duties, police officers are often the primary witnesses in criminal matters, including warrant applications.  There is an implicit relationship of trust between police officers and the courts.  Without that relationship, many criminal matters would simply grind to a halt.  Police misconduct erodes that trust relationship, both with the courts and the public at large.  However, the courts are not in a position to directly address police misconduct.  That role belongs to police departments, governmental agencies, prosecutors and defense counsel, and to civil litigants.  A judge's role is to make it clear that lack of candor by any witness, including police officers, is not acceptable as it interferes with the court's obligation to determine the truth.  While a judge should not assume that police officers are providing inaccurate testimony, a judge's role is to carefully weigh the evidence offered by any witness to determine its credibility.  The court may exercise its authority to exclude evidence obtained through false testimony, or to impose sanctions for misconduct occurring in the courtroom.  A judge may also report misconduct of which he or she has direct knowledge.  

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

Judges have an opportunity to support successful community re-entry through their decisions on sentencing and probation.  In most cases, the court must make a specific determination whether a convicted defendant can be successfully managed in the community rather than through incarceration.  The conditions which a judge imposes for probation are often the key to successful community re-entry.  The court must always look to the defendant's history and level of support to determine whether those conditions will be helpful.  In some cases, incarceration may be necessary to disrupt patterns of behavior which have led to the current criminal charges.  Judges sometimes may grant shock probation after a brief period of incarceration to let the defendant know that the conduct will not go unaddressed.  But after sentencing, courts do not have jurisdiction over the conditions of parole.  Consequently, it is especially important for a court to address re-entry issues at trial or at sentencing.

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

During my time at the Court of Appeals, there were several notable cases which raised issues of potential attorney misconduct.  The two most memorable cases involved situations in which an attorney co-signed a loan application for a client to pay the attorney's fee and where an attorney had engaged in conduct to hide a client's assets during a prior bankruptcy proceeding.  These issues were not directly raised on appeal, but were evident from the record.  In both cases, the presiding judge asked his staff to research the record and to prepare a report to the Kentucky Bar Association.  Once all the supporting documentation was collected and the underlying decision was entered, the judges submitted the complaint to the KBA Disciplinary Board for further review.  This would be my approach on the bench.   While judges are not obligated to independently confirm attorney misconduct, they are obligated to report any potential misconduct which comes to their attention.

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

In terms of jail overcrowding, judges should be aware of conditions in county jails and the impact of pre-trial detention on jail conditions.  The grand jury submits regular reports on jail conditions to the general term of the circuit court, and judges should keep up to date on those reports.  Judges should also be aware of jail conditions in making decisions on bail or in sentencing defendants on misdemeanors.  There is also a chronic issue in which the Department of Corrections does not move convicted felons to state custody following sentencing.  While judges do not have direct control over these issues, they should keep those problems in mind in ruling on matters which may affect jail capacity or conditions.

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

The Kentucky Supreme Court and Administrative Office of the Courts were very quick to promulgate policies at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Despite the unusual circumstances, these policies allowed the courts to continue functioning, in a limited manner, until more information was known.  The most significant omission involved the lack of a policy for tolling the time required for bringing an action.  The Supreme Court extended the time for filing appeals, but did not address the delays that were building up in the clerks' offices in processing filings.  As a result, some litigants had cases dismissed as untimely through no fault of their own.  In addition, the courts have no (sic) evaluated the effect of the COVID policies on delays, so there has been no systematic means of identifying solutions.

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

High rates of minority incarceration are primarily attributable to limited economic opportunities in minority communities, and to a higher degree of law enforcement presence and prosecution in these communities.  Judges do not have the authority over decisions to charge or prosecute individual defendants.  Furthermore, a judge must defer to a decision to prosecute unless the evidence does not support the charge.  Even then, a judge can only grant a directed verdict at the close of trial.  A judge's role, however, is to make sure that all defendants receive due process of law and are treated fairly and impartially under the law.  In many cases, a judge has discretion in sentencing decisions which may be appropriate to address disparate treatment.  A judge should also take care not to allow his or her own biases to affect the decisions of the court.

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

During my time talking to non-attorneys, I have been surprised at how many people do not understand the basics of how the legal system operates.  Many people do not understand their rights.  And while attorneys will take certain cases without an up-front fee, the cost of hiring an attorney will often limit people's access to the courts.  As previously noted, a judge can not advocate for a self-represented litigant.  However, a judge can take steps to make sure that all parties understand their rights.  A judge should be aware of the difficulties facing self-represented parties in making the decision to appoint counsel in criminal or custody matters.  A judge can also advocate off the bench for improved access to legal services, including Legal Aid, Public Defender, and Pro Bono legal assistance.

Sarah Clay, Circuit Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 9th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Timothy Buckley, Sarah Clay, Nichole T. Compton, Blaine Grant, Alan L. Lani, and F. Todd Lewis. Compton and Grant did not reply to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

Going to court is usually a very intimidating and scary experience for a person, whether or not they are represented by an attorney. I would be patient and courteous to self-represented litigants, and make sure that they understand the risks of proceeding without counsel so that they are able to make an informed decision in that regard.

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

I have never been incarcerated, but several people I am close to have been, including family members and non-family members. I have also spent my career representing incarcerated individuals, both as a public defender and then in my private practice. The impact of incarceration on a person's life - including the affect it has on their mental health, their children, their job, and their ability to pay their bills, cannot be understated. I think it can be easy for those who have never been involved in the justice system, or have never seen the effects that incarceration has on individuals, to not think of defendants as human beings. Because I know the effect that jail has on a person, I will be able to be more thoughtful in my decisions. I will of course make those decisions based on the law. But I will do so while also keeping in mind that everyone who appears before me is a human being deserving of dignity and respect.

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

Judges have to make sure that all defendants are aware of and understand the potential consequences of a conviction, including the risk of deportation. That obligation is especially important in the context of plea agreements.

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

Judges have to give each case the attention and time it deserves, regardless of the fact that many have piled up over the last two years. Cases cannot just be processed through as if they are on an assembly line in the name of clearing the backlog. 

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

The abuse of power by anyone in a position of authority is conduct that needs to be addressed. Judges don't make the law and don't determine what cases are prosecuted. However, judges have an obligation to make sure that every defendant is treated fairly and equally under the law for a given criminal offense, regardless of the defendant's status as an officer or non-officer.

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

Defendants are often not aware of the various community resources that exist to assist them in re-entry. Judges can give that information to defendants. Our specialty courts, like Drug Court and Mental Health Court, are also programs that provide those resources to defendants. Those programs provide services that enable participants to become self-sufficient and address the issues that brought them into the justice system. During my career, I served as the public defender for Jefferson County's first Misdemeanor Drug Court, which I helped launch in 2015. In 2018, I served on the planning committee to launch the Family Recovery Court, and have worked extensively in Mental Health Court. Louisville has one of the few mental health courts in the state of Kentucky, and it's a wonderful program. I believe we need more of those specialty courts to make room for the large amount of criminal defendants that have substance abuse issues and are mentally and intellectually disabled. Unfortunately, adding more of those courts takes a significant amount of money, but my goal would be to advocate the Administrative Office of the Courts for the creation of more specialty courts, and secure the funds to do so. 

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

Unfortunately I have dealt with attorney misconduct several times in my career. In each of those cases, I reported the issue to the Court and requested relief on behalf of my client. Although I prefer to have a collegial relationship with my colleagues, I've never chosen friendship over ethics. 

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

Judges set bonds in criminal cases, and are thus in the position of deciding which defendants go to jail and which go home. Those bond decisions directly impact the population at the jail, which affects the safety of everyone at the jail. It is imperative that those bond rulings are made thoughtfully, while taking into account all of the relevant factors involved in a given case. Dangerous people should be in jail to protect the community, but we can't jail people just because we're mad at them. And no one should stay in jail solely because they cannot afford the cost of their freedom. I believe strongly in the need for bail reform, but as I said in a previous response - judges don't make the law. However, we already have several tools that can alleviate the strain cash bail places on those who cannot afford to pay to get out of jail - tools that should be used more often in non-violent and drug offense cases. Those include pretrial monitoring, home incarceration, bail credit, unsecured bonds, surety bonds, etc. I also believe judges should be more cautious about issuing bench warrants for missed court dates, rather than automatically issuing a warrant the first time a court date is missed. Defendants miss court for a myriad of reasons, and studies have shown that simply setting an additional court date and sending a reminder letter is usually all that is needed to ensure appearance. 

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

I wish that all courts had been ordered to use available technology to run proceedings remotely via video. Some of our courts in Jefferson County operated remotely via Zoom or its equivalent, but others operated telephonically. I don't believe telephonic proceedings create a sufficient record for review.

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

Those of us who regularly practice in the criminal system know that systemic racism affects every stage of proceedings. The only way we can successfully work toward Equal Justice is by recognizing those prejudices, calling attention to them, and making a conscious effort every day to overcome them. Judges also have to recognize their own implicit biases, and be mindful of those when evaluating the circumstances of a given case and making decisions. 

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

Absolutely not. Unfortunately, low-income individuals are not able to access the legal system as easily as those with financial means. Although indigent defendants in criminal cases are entitled to have counsel appointed to represent them, parties to civil cases have to hire an attorney (subject to very few exceptions). Many people aren't aware of the organizations that provide pro bono and discounted representation to low-income individuals, such as Legal Aid. I would inform pro se litigants of those resources.

Alan Lani, Circuit Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 9th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Timothy Buckley, Sarah Clay, Nichole T. Compton, Blaine Grant, Alan L. Lani, and F. Todd Lewis. Compton and Grant did not reply to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

Treat everyone with dignity and respect and emphasize that cases should be decided on the merits of the claim, not the skill of the litigant(s).

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

I started my career (actually as a law clerk still in law school) with a firm that was primarily doing criminal defense so of course I have seen the impact of incarceration first hand. In some instances, incarceration can be a good thing for the defendant's life overall, in that it may provide access to GED courses, extended sobriety, etc. Of course it is not appropriate in every case, but that's the whole point of being thorough and conscientous (sic) as a judge: there are a wide variety of tools available and it is important that the appropriate remedy is used in the appropriate case, rather than just trying to force a one size fits all approach.

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

Immigration determinations are largely the province of federal, not state-level, authorities, and as such, a state trial court judge's consideration of immigration matters is limited. That said, to the extent it is presented and may be considered in a case, it is a factor to be considered along with everything else which may be relevant in order to reach the most appropriate outcome for the case.

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

Set trials with the understanding that continuance will not be granted. Set 3 for every week, call the parties in, and if Case 1 for that week has not settled, start the trial. If it has settled, roll to Case 2, and so on. I have found the most effective way to move a case along is set a schedule everyone knows and stick to it resolutely.

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

Unfortunately, police misconduct does occur on occasion. When it does, the courts have powerful tools to address the specific wrongdoing, such as exclusion of evidence or dismissal of specific charges.

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

The best example here is thebdrug (sic) court model - frequent monitoring with incremental methods to address concerns whichbdo (sic) not warrant complete re-incarceration.

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

I have found that sunlight cures many ills. In matters of attorney misconduct I have found that shining light on the issue  - whether by bringing it to the Court's attention, the Bar authorities, or both - is the best way both to address a prior act and ensure that it does not continue.

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

This is a difficult question, because on the one hand I do not believe jail population is a valid factor to consider in determining whether an individual warrants being incarcerated, but on the other hand it is the Court's responsibility to ensure defendants are not subjected to conditions of incarceration which fall short of constitutional due process guarantees. Home incarceration and monitoring are useful tools, but beyond that this becomes a matter that requires policy coordination and cooperation with the other two branches of government.

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

By and large I think the courts handled the pandemic pretty well. It is unfortunate that trials were deayed (sic) as long as they were, but frankly I didn't have a workable idea either so I will not criticize.

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

As I stated earlier, incarceration is a decision to be made on a case by case basis, and the race of the defendant should not be considered - justice is blind for a reason. To the extent minority communities are impacted by things like poverty, lack of educational opportunity, etc, I consider these matters better addressed by the other branches of government. 

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

Kentucky does a good job of ensuring access, though the Court of Justice information portal and provision of AOC forms, etc. Of course this is always a process and the participants should always be aware of opportunities for improvement, but I see this as an area of incremental improvement, not a need for wholesale change.

 

Todd Lewis, Circuit Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 9th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Timothy Buckley, Sarah Clay, Nichole T. Compton, Blaine Grant, Alan L. Lani, and F. Todd Lewis. Compton and Grant did not reply to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

The Kentucky Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court prescribe a set of procedures to be followed in pro se (unrepresented) criminal cases. These will be followed scrupulously, and generally include warnings about the inadvisability of proceeding without an attorney, and a reminder that the person is entitled to appointed counsel if they cannot afford an attorney. Basically, the circuit court judge is required to conclude that the person is proceeding knowingly and voluntarily with such a course of action. If they are, then the person actually has their own right to proceed without a lawyer. The judge must avoid providing legal advice to any side, but certainly can ensure that the individual is not taken advantage of, and is treated with respect and decorum.  

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

I am very aware of the wide-ranging impact of incarceration, having represented the accused (including court appointed representation for those too poor to afford counsel) for ten years now. This does not mean that incarceration will be avoided for everyone, or that the impact stemming from incarceration will be the only factor, because the law requires consideration of numerous other factors, including community dangerousness, the seriousness of the offense, the effect on the victim, and the person's criminal record. 

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

Thankfully, the form used to write up plea agreements now has included in it a discussion of immigration consequences. This was lacking for many years. I would add that, when accepting plea agreements, the judge should be aware enough to specifically ask the question during oral questioning from the bench. Besides ensuring fundamental fairness, a plea deal in which a person was not advised about immigration consequences is one which could very well be set aside later under a claim that the person did not receive constitutionally effective assistance of counsel. 

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

The court system will simply have to ramp up the number and frequency of jury trials, especially in criminal cases. Mediation in civil cases is a good idea, is typically ordered as a matter of course, and I would continue this practice. 

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

Police misconduct, when demonstrated by the evidence, of course must be addressed firmly. Some of the highest-quality investigations into such misconduct have been completed by separate police investigative units, and these units should enjoy the independence to continue their role and mission. Having prosecuted numerous instances of criminal police misconduct (and other public official misconduct) over the course, I feel I have a unique perspective into this issue not offered by other candidates.  

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

Besides ensuring that probation orders include the appropriate conditions to allow a person to succeed at reentry, I also feel that the judge has the ability to volunteer additional time per week to meet with and address reentry issues among persons probated (released to the community) from their court. There are a couple good models of this here in Jefferson County and around the state which I plan to incorporate. 

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

I've addressed this numerous times over my 25 years of active law practice, in civil and criminal cases. One of my concentrations in the last ten years has been focused on investigations of attorneys' failure to adequately represent persons convicted of crimes.  My cases in this area have resulted in the ordering of relief at the trial and appeals levels, several times. This type of procedure is approached through a carefully delineated set of processes under the Criminal Rules of Procedure. There is also the broader issue of whether a given attorney is suffering from a substance abuse of (sic) mental health problem underlying their misconduct. Since I have actual experience in addressing such problems, I believe this experience will help inform me as judge in identifying and addressing the underlying issues which cause these problems, and rectifying it before it inflicts further damage on the judicial system. 

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

As judge, I would want to be informed daily on the population characteristics and numbers of the jail inmates. Unless and until the 'cash bail' system is reformed by the legislature (and this should be a top priority for the legislature, absolutely), judges are required to consider and weigh a set of factors in setting a bond. I would be required to follow that law, but I am not aware of any restriction on considering the amount of space and resources available to carry out detentions and alternatives to detention when making such decisions. 

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

I applaud the Kentucky Supreme Court for its swift and intelligent response to a constantly-changing environment. Keeping an entire court system functioning in the middle of a pandemic was a monumental feat. I would like to see e-filing expanded to the appellate courts, and perhaps mandated at the trial court level. Remote appearances (by Zoom) are also acceptable if nothing critical is happening in the case, but the ability to observe these hearings by the public must be expanded. Beyond that, the public should remember that our judicial system is designed to be an 'in-person' event, and critical stages simply must be kept in that format.  

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

Addressing and unravelling this problem goes well beyond the judiciary. The reality is, it is largely poor people who are over-represented in the criminal justice system, and this has its origins in the failure of numerous social institutions which affected that person's life before they were charged with a crime. I am not going to let those institutions off the hook by falsely suggesting that judges or police alone can undo the problems created by their failures. We would not accept the illogical notion that physicians should stop treating diseases or injuries in order to pretend that disease and injury doesn't exist; and we shouldn't accept the same notion in the judiciary. These fixes are expensive, and also require energy and commitment by numerous persons. 

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

This is one of the reasons I founded and serve as President of the Friends of Jefferson County Public Law Library. I also applaud the local public defender's office for expanding the appointment of private attorneys to indigent cases, and this should continue. I accept most of these appointments, because I feel that it is a public duty of all attorneys. The staff of the public defender's office is simply not adequate to handle the volume of cases on their own. What is lacking is adequate legal assistance in civil cases for persons unable to afford an attorney. This is handled by the local Legal Aid Society, but the support and funding of this representation has shrunk greatly in my 25 years, and I don't like this. Finally, I believe the Kentucky Supreme Court should address more formally the ability of attorneys to provide some limited assistance to working class folks who have some ability tp (sic) pay, but can not necessarily afford the entire package of representation in a given dispute. It is always that working class litigant, with better income than the totally indigent, but insufficient income for full attorney fees, who ends up suffering the most. 

Zackary McKee, Circuit Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 10th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Dorislee Gilbert, Zackary "Zack" McKee, and Patricia "Tish" Morris. Our questionnaire was mistakenly not delivered to Dorislee Gilbert correctly. Gilbert would have participated had the survey been received by her campaign.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

My approach when a self-represented litigant comes before me is to be patient, respectful and most importantly fair. As a former judicial staff attorney, I have seen this on many occasions. I believe the best approach is understanding that a self-represented litigant is more likely than not, not familiar with the rules of evidence or civil procedure. Also, they would need to be careful not to say or do anything that would otherwise deprive them of a fair and speedy trial. Some people may be self-represented solely as a result of their financial circumstances and this should not be a barrier to fair treatment and justice. 

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

I have not been incarcerated. I have a close relationship with the majority of my clients and some have been incarcerated on matters unrelated to my initial representation of them. I do fully understand the impact of incarcerating someone. As an African American male, I have heard the statistics regarding incarceration and its impact on people. I understand that when making a decision to incarcerate someone, it could impact their job, if they have one. It could cost them custody of their children or grandchildren. I think one must consider the severity of the offense, the individuals connections to the community, likelihood to reoffend when considering whether to incarcerate someone or not. 

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

I personally have represented a Spanish speaking victim of domestic violence. That domestic violence hearing was 2 hours. Such helped prevent the deportation. Judges have an important role to ensure that the individual is properly represented. Most importantly, that a translator is present and sufficient time is given for translation and understanding. The Judge runs their docket and courtroom. Cases such as these should not be rushed, especially when there is a translator. 

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

If it is a civil case, I believe following what they do in federal court would be very beneficial. In federal court they have joint meeting reports. This allows the lawyers in civil cases to meet and set deadlines to complete discovery, file dispositive motions and have a trial. This would streamline civil cases. Also, issuing status report orders would be beneficial. This would give the court an idea of where the case is at. Also, answering motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment. Lastly, if it is a criminal case, then all those incarcerated need to have their trials set and completed. 

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

I believe our justice system as a whole needs addressing and it isn't specifically police. There have been some issues with police but we need fair and honest judges that believe in fairly applying the law to all. I am currently involved in a wrongful death case involving the Bullitt County Sheriff's office. One officer made a bad voice and the Kentucky State Police is investigating and presenting the case to a grand jury. Moreover, the family has sued for wrongful death. The role for the Court in this case is to fairly apply the law. This is how the courts can address police misconduct.

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

By treating everyone with dignity and respect and fairly applying the law.

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

No. I believe if I have to address attorney misconduct as a judge that I would first do a side bar with the attorney and then the client. I believe that we must remember that the attorney owes an ethical duty to his client. So depending on what the issue is, it may be appropriate to speak to the attorney in chambers and then to the client or them both together. I believe that the client or litigant should not be the one who suffers because of attorney misconduct.

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

The judicial branch is a separate branch of government. I do not believe that judges have a specific role. I think judges can take certain actions to reduce over-crowding. For example, when it comes to non-violent offenses judges do not have to order cash bail for the poor, judges can use surety bonds, or other pre-trial release methods. Someone charged with a nonviolent offense may not be able to afford $1,000 cash bail. So another pre-trial release maybe more appropriate in order to reduce the overcrowding of jails.

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

There is not one.

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

Lack of diversity amongst judges is one cause for the high rates of minority incarceration. For example, in Jefferson County District Court there are 17 total judges but none of them are an African American male. There are 13 circuit court judges and 2 are African American males but one announced he is retiring. I am African American so that would be one change, added diversity. Otherwise I would make sure that the law is fairly applied to everyone. 

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

Absolutely not. As judge I would ensure that the law is fairly applied to all. In the eyes of the law, everyone is equal. It does not and would not matter your social or economic status.

Patricia Morris, Circuit Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 10th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Dorislee Gilbert, Zackary "Zack" McKee, and Patricia "Tish" Morris. Our questionnaire was mistakenly not delivered to Dorislee Gilbert correctly. Gilbert would have participated had the survey been received by her campaign.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

I would first recommend they seek counsel as I cannot advise nor guide them in the law.  But if they insisted on representing themselves, which they have a right to do so, I would treat them with the same dignity and respect as any other person that comes before me.  

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

I have friends that were incarcerated.  It takes a huge mental and physical toll on a person's life.  That should be considered when incarcerating those before me.  The prison system unfortunately does not have the proper means and tools to rehabilitate people and rather it is used as a deterrent system which will only increase the likelihood of someone reoffending which would lead to fewer resources and overcrowding int he system.  For those that suffer from mental issues alternative ways should be considered before throwing them in a system that is already overcrowded and overwhelmed with limited resources, to help make inmates come back to society as more productive members.

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

The law should be equally applied regardless. For those that are not citizens they MUST HAVE equal representation before the courts which include but is not limited to appropriate resources such as qualified and trustworthy interpreters, certified through the state, to make sure all parties understand their rights and options when they come before a Judge. 

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

Of course a lot of hard work and extra hours by the courts and the staff.  This is simply a consequence of the pandemic that we will endure in order to insure justice to the community that we serve.  I also think continuing remote hearings, if acceptable by all parties, may help in saving time and resources.  Furthermore, making rulings from the bench, which means being prepared with knowledge and the law before a hearing or a motion.  Although this is not always possible, if Judges continue to educate themselves, read the case files and the applicable law and always be pursuing knowledge of the law it could certainly expedite many cases without harming the litigants.

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

I think in any profession you have misconduct.  The Judge's role is to [be] fair and impartially apply the law.  The police force is not above this requirement and therefore will be dealt with just as any other person who has allegedly broken the law.  Furthermore, Judges should be held accountable when they sign warrants that they have not fully investigated or asked the right questions from those seeking them.  Judges are the conduit between the police and the community when applying the law and should make sure what they are implementing is accurate, well investigated and reviewed before signing.

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

They can utilize alternative programs in helping those that have been found guilty of an offense such as drug court/ rehab/ mental evaluations and treatment.  They can address each person as an individual vs a court number and encourage them to make better decisions and actually follow through with those requests.  Judges can show that we are here to help not condemn or criticize.  We are not better than those that come before us and we should remain humble as we are servants of this community.  Judges can also ingratiate themselves in community awareness and assistance projects.  They should lead by example  and never think they are beyond reproach.

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

They can utilize alternative programs in helping those that have been found guilty of an offense such as drug court/ rehab/ mental evaluations and treatment.  They can address each person as an individual vs a court number and encourage them to make better decisions and actually follow through with those requests.  Judges can show that we are here to help not condemn or criticize.  We are not better than those that come before us and we should remain humble as we are servants of this community.  Judges can also ingratiate themselves in community awareness and assistance projects.  They should lead by example  and never think they are beyond reproach.

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

Judge must make sound uninfluenced determinations as to each individual that comes before them as to what danger they are to society, the likelihood they are reoffend and what ties they have tot he community.  Then work with alternative programs, HIP, mental rehab facilities, and drug rehab facilities.  There are programs that are being created as we speak that would alleviate the burden on our jails while keeping our communities safe.

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

I think our court system did an amazing job when having to deal with an unprecedented occurrence that has never been see by our world before.  In hindsight, of course, I think non violent offenders should have been released to HIP or ROR, if possible, and the mask mandate and zoom capabilities implemented earlier.

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

I believe it is the disparity in application of the law due to the socio-economic background of the litigant.  As I cannot change the law, I can apply it fairly and equally.  A person's ability or inability to pay for a lawyer or a bond should not affect the outcome of his case or whether he/she sits in jail awaiting trial or a hearing. 

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

No, as I believe our public defenders are overwhelmed, underpaid and overworked.  I would encourage non public defenders to take on more pro bono work to help the community.  I would encourage and participate in free educational seminars regarding the law and a citizens rights and access to legal help.  

Yvette De La Guardia, District Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 4th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Yvette De La Guardia, Lora Chisholm Holman, and Jennifer Murzyn Yancey. All candidates replied to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

I would ensure that any self-represented litigant appearing before me understands their rights and is aware of the resources available to assist them. 

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

I spent a lot of time contemplating on how my loved one had become incarcerated. Later on as a public defender, I found myself asking the same question about the children I represented. From these experiences I've come to understand that compassion, empathy, and accountability are not mutually exclusive concepts, and each one plays an important role in our justice system. 

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

Judges could inquire whether the parties have complied with Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010) in all cases resolved by plea.

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

Our courts must give the same attention to backlogged cases as to any other pre-pandemic case. I think it would help to hire and pay additional qualified folks to help work through these cases.

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

In the criminal justice system, police generate much of the information relied on by judges, jurors, and the prosecution. Accordingly, any police misconduct must be addressed. Our judiciary can address this issue by making decisions and treating its people in manners consistent with its stated commitment to fairness and justice.

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

Judges can support successful community re-entry by learning about the issue and seeking out resources available to assist formerly incarcerated people. This would require the collaborative effort of the court and a multidisciplinary team working together to identify and address the housing, employment, and treatment needs of the individuals.

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

I have not had to address another attorney's misconduct. 

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

Judges can reevaluate the manner in which they have been exercising their discretion in bail decisions. 

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

I wish there had been more protections in place for folks working in the jails. 

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

Implicit biases and systemic racism. Judges should do more to educate themselves, their courtroom staff and personnel, and justice partners about these problems.

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

No. I have met many citizens who do not feel comfortable or safe coming to court because of a language barrier. As a district court judge, I hope to improve our judiciary's language access and cultural competency.

Lora Holman, District Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 4th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Yvette De La Guardia, Lora Chisholm Holman, and Jennifer Murzyn Yancey. All candidates replied to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

When a pro se Defendant appears before a Judge, care should be taken by the Judge to try to make sure the individual knows the procedural steps or is allowed time to investigate the process. However, Judges are not permitted to give legal advice to parties in a case so a Judge is limited on the amount of help that can be given from the bench to any person appearing in Court. 

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

No, I have not personally experienced the impact of incarceration on family members. The main issues to consider regarding incarceration or revoking probation (after it is determined that proper evidence exists for a conviction or revocation) are the seriousness of the matter, the injuries or damages caused to innocent people by the Defendant, and the prior criminal history. For situations where a person does not appear to be a danger to the community and committed a non violent offense, a Judge should take into consideration other options such as drug treatment, volunteer work, supervised probation or home incarceration. 

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

Non-citizens should expect to face the same consequences as citizens and expect the same application of the law and the same treatment in Court. Judges should be treating all people that come before them the same. That being said, there are situations where judges can take into consideration the whole picture to possibly avoid deportation, avoid someone losing employment, or allow a student to avoid a criminal record for cases that are not violent. But these options should be available to all defendants not just non-citizens. 

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

I think committing to having more dockets or longer work hours for Judges and their staff (with overtime pay for hourly employees) would be a good way to push through the backlog of cases. 

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

Misconduct anywhere in the system needs to be addressed. Courts, specifically prosecutors and judges, have a responsibility to weigh the evidence and the credibility of the evidence available before allowing a case to move through the Court system. If there is reason to believe police misconduct has occurred, a case often will get dismissed and potentially many other cases that same officer is involved in may also be dismissed. However, the judiciary doesn't have the authority to remove police officers from their jobs. 

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

By promoting programs that allow Defendants to get help such as drug treatment, counseling and assistance for anger management, mental illness, and domestic violence issues. Also, by allowing supervised probation or home incarceration where appropriate so a person is coming back into the community but is also being held accountable. 

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

I have never had to address an attorney's misconduct during my career. I have supervised people in the past that were part of my team that acted inappropriately and I counseled them about the issue, discussed steps to remedy the problem, documented the issue, and in most cases, gave them a second chance. However, there were a few instances where termination of employment was required. In those situations, human resources was also involved in the decision process. 

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

Judges can consider options other than incarceration in situations where it is appropriate such as non violent crimes where the defendant does not appear to pose a risk to the community. Some options include: home incarceration, drug treatment, volunteer work, anger management classes, or supervised probation. 

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

I wish we all could have realized much sooner how incredibly long the pandemic was going to impact us. In the beginning it seemed that the courts just shut down and nothing was happening and a lot of lawyers weren't moving their cases forward thinking it would all be over and back to 'normal' soon. By the time the courts and legal community fully accepted that this is the 'new normal', a huge backlog was already underway. 

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

Judges could work together to try to implement a more standard way of reviewing cases where incarceration is being considered to try to have a more uniform and unbiased method of making these determinations. In both criminal and civil cases, the difference in rulings from one judge to the next are vastly different. I think one of the most challenging things about having a solo practice that involves litigation is the inconsistency of the Orders from one courtroom to the next within Jefferson county. If Judges became more concerned about this problem, they could work together to try to promote consistency, equity, and fairness to all defendants and litigants. 

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

No, absolutely not. The legal system like most everything else in our country favors the wealthy. In both criminal and civil matters, there is a gap between people that qualify for assistance through the public defender's office or legal aid society and the people that can afford traditional attorney rates. Just because a person is employed or has a few assets does not mean they can afford legal representation that may be necessary for months to get through the lengthy court process. In my practice, I try to welcome this group of people by offering flat fee rates for a lot of my work and have discounted my rates at times to try to help my client get through a tough time. I think Judges have very little control over this process other than trying to make sure litigants or defendants representing themselves have access to information and procedure. However, if the threshold for small claims court was raised, more civil litigants could represent themselves in a court that is geared toward that. And if the qualifications to be appointed a public defender in a criminal case were expanded, more defendants that can't afford extensive legal fees could be represented. 

Jennifer Murzyn Yancey, District Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 4th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Yvette De La Guardia, Lora Chisholm Holman, and Jennifer Murzyn Yancey. All candidates replied to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

When I handle a pro se individual as a prosecutor I am always careful to make sure they understand everything that is going on and what their options are. As a judge I would do the same. It's important that they understand their rights. To make sure they do I would engage in a conversation with them to make sure they understood their charges, their options for resolution, and that they don't have to resolve their case, they have a right to trial if they want to go that route. I think it's important that a pro se individual feel that they understand everything that is happening and would happen in the future based on their decision that day. I would take the time that's needed to make sure their rights are protected and they make a fully informed choice.

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

I have had people in my life that have served time in jails and prison. I saw their struggles with drugs and alcohol that resulted in them cycling through the criminal justice system over and over. I witnessed how it affected their friends and family. We went from being very hopeful that maybe this would be the last time they would be incarcerated to seeing how their addictions took over their entire life and left them serving months to years at a time. This has given me some perspective and expectations for individuals who are struggling with issues. It's important to not expect perfection from people, they likely won't get it right on the first try. I think my experiences in my personal life as well as my time I've spent handling cases in both Circuit and District Court would make me an understanding judge. I also witnessed those people in my life get help, some succeeded in stopping their cycle through the system, but a few did not and after having chances they were held accountable. While I am a huge proponent of getting people into treatment to stop them from cycling through the system, I also believe in holding people accountable. My time with Drug Court showed me that giving people a second chance is important to make them productive members of our society, but there are times when individuals need to be incarcerated to protect themselves and others. Incarcerating someone is a decision I will not take lightly and it will be a decision made after considering all the factors.

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

The judges role with immigration consequences should be one of ensuring fairness and making sure that the defendant understands the potential consequences involved. As a prosecutor I was always considerate of immigration consequences and where appropriate I worked with defense counsel to come up with a fair resolution. As a judge I would make sure I was doing the same type of thing within my judicial authority to ensure that consequences were understood as well as making sure that the chance of deportation is warranted for the offense. There are many factors to be considered but I do believe that a judge should be a check on the situation to ensure that immigration consequences are reserved for the most severe circumstances. 

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

I think we need to have a few weeks of having all courts running for morning and afternoon court to work through the backlog. Unfortunately this has been impossible to do because of staffing issues for many justice partners. Finding a better way to have some matters handled off docket might be a better solution for the backlog problem but that would still require many people to do that effectively and I know there would be staffing issues for that as well. Many continuances occur because attorneys can't be everywhere at the same time so if there was a way to stack cases better for attorneys that would be one way to prevent unnecessary continuances. It will also take judges asking questions about why a continuance is necessary. If we just continue cases because we don't have the time to give to that case that day that's a problem. We should handle everything possible for each case on the first date it's scheduled and continuances need to become rare for the backlog to ever get better. Any plan will require a collaboration of all justice partners. I think its crucial that we come up with a plan with input from all necessary parties to include, the county attorney's office, the public defenders office, the local bar, the clerks office, etc.  

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

Police misconduct absolutely needs to be addressed. Police are an essential part of our criminal justice system but there are bad eggs that need to be dealt with. I am currently the person in my office that is in charge of the Brady list. I review files all the time to determine whether the conduct rises to the level of disclosure. I believe that if misconduct has occurred it needs to be dealt with in an appropriate manner. The courts role in this, I think, comes in using the law to evaluate whether some police misconduct should come in as evidence in a matter before them. The courts would also have a role in handling any criminal charges that arose from police misconduct in the same way they would any other case before them. Regardless of how a judge may feel about police misconduct they can't let that interfere with their job. Courts address the issue of police misconduct by enforcing the law in their courtroom and when warranted allowing evidence of the misconduct in cases they are presented.

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

Judges can support successful community re-entry by advocating for programs that help individuals with the main things they need when they get out of jail/prison. It's important that there be resources available for individuals like housing, treatment, jobs, and/or education. 

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

I have not personally had to address another attorney's misconduct. There were a few times I was made aware of misconduct that had occurred but I was not involved in it. As an attorney, I am aware of my duty to report misconduct and I would have no issues doing that. As a judge, if misconduct occurred on a case in my courtroom I would address that issue at the time the case is on the docket and take appropriate steps to report it to the Kentucky Bar Association if that was warranted.

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

Judges do play a role in the over-population of jails, but they cannot snap their fingers and just relieve the problem. I see the role of the judge to be the final check on the system to make sure we are keeping those in jail that really need to be there. There are a lot of factors that go into that analysis but judges need to be thoughtful in their decisions on bond and should consider alternatives to incarceration when possible. Judges could have a review system to monitor why individuals are in jail. If it is something they can do to expedite a person being moved to a different facility or released to treatment then maybe that could help. The problem is that judges are limited in what they can do because of the rules. In relation to bonds they can only consider releasing someone when there is a material change in circumstances, and after that change in circumstances is brought to their attention by an attorney's motion. Judges could advocate for a new review system and invite the justice partners to take part in combating the over-population in jails.

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

I can't really boil it down to an order or policy that I wish had been put in place. Covid rocked Jefferson District Court and brought a lot of issues to the forefront. What I will say is that I wish we would have been able to comply with the orders put in place in a quicker fashion so we didn't have to delay so many cases. We are left with a backlog because we were not able to hold court in a safe manner without severely limiting which cases were on the docket. District Court had to quickly adapt to a new way of holding court, once it did dockets were still limited because of staffing issues. District Court in Jefferson County is still very tied to a pen and paper system which became a huge issue during Covid. If there was an order or policy that could have removed our normal process of how cases are handled in District Court I think that could have allowed for more cases to be handled. A complete overhaul of the entire system would have been necessary and I don't think that was realistic because of funding and staffing limitations. It is something that I hope to help get started when I become judge but it will require a joint effort from the justice partners and some significant funding to change the outdated system in place at the moment.

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

The high rate of minorities being incarcerated is likely because there are typically a higher amount of police activity that occurs in areas of cities that are predominately where minorities live. It leads to a higher amount of minorities being stopped by police which leads to more minorities being charged and thus incarcerated. Minorities involved in drugs are also much more likely to be charged and incarcerated for their drug involvement. This likely has to do with the disparity in the access to treatment and minorities are less likely to have family support to help them. Judges can change the rate of minority incarceration by considering alternatives in appropriate cases. Judges can also advocate for better funding for treatment programs that would allow for minorities to get the treatment they need to stop coming through the criminal justice system, which increases their likelihood of being incarcerated for longer periods of time.  

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

I do not believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system. If you're just looking at access in a criminal case, then sure you can say that because the Constitution guarantees a persons right to counsel, a person has access to legal help. However, if you consider that there is much more than just criminal cases that people need lawyers for, and so many people don't have the ability to hire lawyers to help them, that impacts their access to the legal system. Money should not prevent access to the legal system for people who are trying to get things done in court but don't have the legal training to navigate their way through the system. There are some organizations like Legal Aid which help to curb the gap but there are still plenty of people who don't qualify for their services, or their legal issue is not something they handle, who are left without help. As a judge I would be patient with individuals representing themselves on matters. I would also encourage our court system to make the paperwork easier for people to understand and make sure that citizens understand there may be legal services available to them at a reduced fee or even for free. 

Jacob Elder, Circuit Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 7th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Jacob Elder, Shannon Renee Fauver, and Megan McDonald. All candidates replied to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

Most often, the respondent or defendant is the pro se litigant. I would do more to require the moving party to be explicit in the law under which they seek relief, the facts they are alleging, and the evidence they intend to introduce to prove those allegations. This ensures the pro se party has proper notice and can fairly defend against a given action. Aside from this, I would also make resources available in the court room for legal aid and other services that could assist the pro se litigant.  

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

While I have never been incarcerated, I have friends who have. I have also represented people who are incarcerated, and stood next to my clients as they have been placed into handcuffs.  I have experienced the secondary trauma that comes from being a criminal defense attorney, and prosecutor. Because, yes, even if you argued for and believe the person being detained deserves it, you still have empathy and feel the impact that has on their family, especially children. Needless to say, my experiences with incarceration as a prosecutor and defense attorney have had a profound impact on me, and the decision to take someone into custody is not one that I take lightly. 

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

The judge has the responsibility in upholding Due Process, and ensuring that the accused has been given proper notice of the charges they face, the factual allegations, the evidence that will be used against them, and the consequences of conviction. This should be done for everyone accused of a crime, but especially for non-citizens. Judges should make sure interpreter services are provided, that the non-citizen has a proper understanding of the charges they are facing, and that immigration consequences are addressed on the record so that a non-citizen understands what is at stake if they accept a plea. A judge's role is ensuring basic due process, and that the accused can properly understand the charges against them. This informs the non-citizen of defenses they could possibly raise, and allows them to be in a position to negotiate a resolution without immigration consequences.   

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

I believe the best way to work through these cases is in holding the Commonwealth to their burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If it appears that a backlog case has not been sufficiently reviewed by the Commonwealth, and no evidence has been retained, then the Commonwealth cannot in good faith maintain prosecution of the case. I would set a schedule for every case, requiring a discovery conference where the Commonwealth must have reviewed the case, decided whether there is sufficient evidence to move forward, and provide that evidence to the defendant. This would effectively cull through cases where there is insufficient evidence or in cases where prosecution is not in keeping with the principles of justice. 

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

Yes, and I believe the court's role in addressing this comes by ensuring basic due process. It has been my experience in practicing all over Kentucky that the courts operate under the mentality that they are on the same team as the prosecutor and law enforcement in the 'War on Crime'. This is highly egregious. The court's role is to be a check on executive power, not to work in conjunction with it. It's this team mentality that erodes the principles of due process, and allows prosecutors to get by without exercising due diligence in reviewing cases, and tendering exculpatory evidence, (evidence of police misconduct), to the defendant.  By ensuring due process, the court forces the prosecutor to properly review cases and creates a level of transparency where police misconduct does not go undetected. 

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

Community re-entry is primarily the concern of the Department of Corrections and not a District Court Judge. However, on the front end, a judge can start by treating the convicted as the human beings they are, rather than criminals. Instead of reciprocating the lack of respect the convicted may have shown the victim or the law, the judge should uphold the standards of dignity and respect that should be afforded to everyone. If the system starts treating the convicted like human beings, maybe they will have a better outlook when they re-enter society. 

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

I have never had to address this issue to the degree that it needed to be brought to higher authority. I believe in being up front about what I perceive as potential misconduct, and addressing it directly with the other attorney is the best way to handle such situations. This may be confrontational at first, but it clears up any misconceptions and miscommunications, as well as it gives the opportunity for correction before needlessly involving other parties. However, such issues are a case by case and some acts of misconduct may require reporting directly to the proper authority. 

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

Judges make the call in setting bonds pre-trial, and sentencing upon conviction. They play the role of deciding whether or not a person goes to jail, stays in jail, or gets released. Under the law, there is room for a judge to use their discretion in granting alternative forms of monitoring pre-trial and sentencing. From home incarceration, to community service, to probated sentences conditioned on treatment programs, there are many actions a judge could take besides traditional detention that would alleviate the over-crowding of our jails. But primarily, a judge should act with seriousness given the gravity of the situation, and not be flippant in deciding to take someone into custody, simply because a judge has the power to do so. 

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

I'm not 100% sure on this one, as I feel we are still in the after action review phase of the pandemic. I did not like that cases were taken off the docket and placed in the 'parking lot' as it was called. I don't think it was the best idea, but I also don't know that I have a better alternative. 

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

There are many causes, but I believe implicit bias on the part of judges is a major cause. We are all warped by the racist world which we were born in to, and judges being mindful of this will go along (sic) way to reduce these numbers. However, the major changes that need to take place are better accomplished through the legislature. 

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

I know not every citizen has adequate access. A judge can only do so much to provide a person with the resources needed to help them gain access, such as appointing a public defender, referring them to legal aid, or the local bar directory. At the end of the day it comes down to money, and the fact that most lawyers have six figures worth of debt they are trying to pay off. This in turn drives up legal fees, and prices many people out of being able to afford legal counsel. Unfortunately, judges can't cancel student loan debt. 

Shannon Fauver, District Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 7th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Jacob Elder, Shannon Renee Fauver, and Megan McDonald. All candidates replied to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

I would make sure that they understand the process that they are currently in, see if they qualify for a public defender, need to get a later court date to get a private attorney of (sic) if they won't go go (sic) forward without an attorney.  I would make sure they understand the ramifications of what the (sic) deciding on, a plea or not at that point. 

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

My experience with incarceration is only related to the fact that I have represented over 3000 clients over 18 years.  I have seen, and read studies, that it only takes 3 days of being in jail (before any finding of guilt or innocence is made) for someone to lose their job, their housing, custody of their child, etc., so yes, it is a consideration prior to any finding of guilt.  

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

In my practice, I have represented many clients who faced deportation, so I know how important to explain to those in Court (as I have been for the last 18 years), exactly what the consequences of a plea will have on that person. 

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

I think that all the Courts should be fully opened and to stop passing cases to a later date when so many are still going on from 2020.

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

Yes.  That is  a much longer answer that I can provide in this forum.  I do believe that everyone is accountable for their actions and their statement, no matter their job title.

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

They need to make sure that when someone is sentenced, they need to know the exact terms of the sentence, so that they don't inadvertently violate anything that would get them out of custody, or make them return to custody.

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

I have had to report other attorneys if the (sic) are impaired, as it is required by our rules.

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

Presentencing, there are options available to the judges , releasing on ones own recognizance, home incarceration, just to name two. Those would relieve some of the over-population in Kentucky jails, 

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

I wish that we had something like Homeless Court, to address the needs of that part of our community.

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

I believe that the judicial system is not designed to handle some of the systemic issues which cause the high minority incarceration rates.  Presentencing, there are options available to the judges , releasing on ones own recognizance, home incarceration, just to name two, as otherwise more people stay in jail because many can't afford to get out.  For example, while a property bond, like putting up one's house for the bond, isn't an option for a large part of our community due to redlining.  

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

I do not believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system. We need more public defenders and more attorneys with Legal Aid to address that need.

Megan McDonald, District Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 7th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Jacob Elder, Shannon Renee Fauver, and Megan McDonald. All candidates replied to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

I believe a judge’s first responsibility in such cases is to ascertain whether a litigant is eligible for the appointment of counsel. Certainly in criminal cases, but in appropriate civil cases as well.  If the individual is found ineligible for a state appointed attorney or it is not a case where such an appointment is appropriate, I believe it is important that the judge make every attempt to ensure that the litigant’s individual rights are protected by educating them on the legal process involved in the case and preventing any opposing attorney from taking advantage of the disparity in legal proficiency.

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

No, I have never been incarcerated and I am unaware of anyone close to me having been. However, empathy and understanding are essential characteristics that judges must possess. A judge must know that any decision to incarcerate someone will not only have a great impact on that individual, but their family as well. This obviously includes an economic impact, such as loss of income and support, as well as difficulty finding good employment after release. There is also a huge emotional and mental toll to consider, as well as a stigma associated with incarceration, that affects all those involved. This is why I believe that, as a general rule, only violent offenders that present a risk to the community should be incarcerated and alternative rehabilitative measures should be sought in all other cases. 

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

Everyone must be treated fairly and justly under the law. There can be no exception. Judges should ensure that all members of the community, regardless of their circumstances, have the same access to appointed counsel in appropriate cases. I also believe judges should support and encourage pro bono services by attorneys and keep up to date on special outreach projects which focus on immigration issues so that this information can be offered to the more needful members of our communities. 

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

The simple answer is a strong work ethic and a willingness to come together to work through the backlog. As a working mother, who was also the primary caregiver during the shutdown, I know how daunting it can seem. In District Court it is easy for judges to assist each other with their dockets. If elected, I would be willing to volunteer to take on extra dockets to alleviate some of the pressure. Bringing in retired judges on a voluntary or paid basis is another viable option. Anyone serving on the bench must be prepared to be in the courtroom when needed as well as available after the docket ends.  In truth, the robe never really comes off. Judges should expect to be called upon at all hours of the day and night and be prepared to handle every case with integrity, no matter the circumstances. 

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

It is a judge’s responsibility to ensure the fair and equal administration of justice. It is a responsibility that I take very seriously. If police misconduct should ever interfere with that, a judge must deal with it in whatever manner is most appropriate under the circumstances. No one is above the law.

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

A criminal record makes re-entry into the community very difficult, especially in the area of employment. Judges should fully support the utilization of expungement opportunities in all appropriate misdemeanor and felony cases. I believe judges also have an obligation to educate the public regarding the potential for the expungement of their criminal conviction at appropriate opportunities during a case. For example, at sentencing it may well be appropriate for a judge to advise a defendant of their right to have their conviction expunged upon fulfillment of all statutory requirements. 

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

Fortunately, thus far in my career I have not encountered this issue. In Kentucky we have mandatory reporting requirements that apply to professional misconduct by an attorney. Judges have the same responsibility as all other members of the bar to report such misconduct to the Bar Association Counsel. As an attorney and candidate for District Court, I am and would be required by law to follow such rules. 

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

The judiciary has great control over incarceration rates through sentencing and bail. It is my strong belief that, in general, the only people who need to be incarcerated are violent offenders, those who pose a threat to the community. There are many options available to judges to ensure offenders return to court that do not require the individual to be jailed. I believe that judges need to be keenly aware that home incarceration is a viable option for non-violent offenders. Cash bail, surety bonds and no bond release are options for those accused of a non-violent offense and all have substantially similar return to court rates.  

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

I applaud Chief Justice Minton’s usage of remote (virtual) court proceedings during the pandemic. While there was certainly some initial confusion, it enabled the courts to stay open to serve the public in spite of the difficulties faced by all. I believe we should keep this option open as a resource for those whose circumstances make it difficult or impossible to physically attend court. 

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

Racism and poverty are the main causes of disproportionately high rates of minority incarceration. At the beginning of a case, judges should consider alternatives to incarceration and cash bail for non-violent offenses such as no bail release or surety bonds. From there, ensuring fair treatment throughout the course of a case is paramount. Everyone should be treated fairly, equally and with respect regardless of their individual circumstances in every case. 

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

No, not everyone has equal access to legal help and the legal system. Poverty and lack of education are impediments to full access to the court system. It is imperative that everyone involved in a court case, not only the judges but court support staff as well, is aware of programs designed to increase access to legal help. This includes, as mentioned, utilization of court appointed attorneys where appropriate as well as the excellent AOC provided interpreters to address language barriers. It also means being sensitive to neurodivergence and mental illness within the community, issues that are not always obvious. I also fully support the availability of specialized courts such as drug/recovery court and veterans courts and would encourage expanding those dockets to reach more members of the community who may have limited access to legal help. 

Lindsay Volk Beets, District Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 8th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Lindsay Volk Beets, Karen Faulkner, and Jessica Stone. All candidates replied to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

As an Assistant County Attorney, I have worked extensively with self-represented or pro-se litigants. My approach and personal philosophy is to treat everyone with dignity and respect, to take the time to explain all of there legal options, and let them ultimately decide how they want to move forward with their case. As a Judge, I would extend that approach from the bench, patiently and calmly explaining the process and the options on how to move forward to each pro-se litigant. When I started almost six years ago as a prosecutor, I read about compassionate justice. Under the principles of compassionate justice, participants in the legal process can accept consequences for their criminal conduct, but will not accept being treated poorly and disrespected. My approach in the courtroom as a prosecutor and my approach from the bench as a Judge will be to treat people with respect, know the law, and to be fair.

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

Yes, I have had family members who were incarcerated. As many families in Louisville do, I have a family member who suffered from drug addiction and was in the criminal justice system. He was able to go to treatment, get the help he needed, resolve all his legal issues, and more recently celebrated nine years of sobriety. As the Veterans Treatment Court, I actively help identify those in need of treatment and encourage that option over continued incarceration. As judge, I want members of my community to get and have access to the help that they need. Treatment for those in need will help everyone in the community by having less people in our jails and less people in the criminal justice system.

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

Whenever someone's residency or legal status in this country is at stake, as a prosecutor, I have always been willing to agree to give them time to discuss these matters with an immigration attorney. I would not want someone to make decisions about their case, without all the information they need. As a judge, I would try to extend non-citizens defendants that same courtesy, so they are able to make informed decisions about their criminal cases. 

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

In the fall of 2020, I was assigned as a prosecutor who sorted through the backlog of traffic and misdemeanor offenses. Jefferson County had over 40,000 cases waiting adjudication. We created a system to sort through and prioritize cases with a victim, and began using online video conferencing in the courtrooms to reach more people. I believe we should continue to use online zoom platform, so that more people have access to the court system. 

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

Of course, misconduct of any kind needs to be addressed. The system only works if the public has trust that it is fair for all. Law enforcement often faces unwarranted attacks by the media and others, but we must take credible accusations seriously and the courts need to hold everyone accountable. 

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

District Court is the gateway to the criminal justice system. It is best suited to heling with diversion with alternatives like Veterans, Drug and Mental Health Courts. It is better for the individual, the community and taxpayers when people can diverted from more serious trouble when appropriate.   

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

Fortunately, no, but I hold myself to the highest standards and I expect that those I work with to do the same.

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

As the gateway to the criminal justice system District Court plays a big role in diverting people from the jail system. Alternatives like Veterans, Drug and Mental Health Courts can get people the help they need before bad decisions leave the criminal justice system no choice but incarceration.  

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

I commend Chief Justice Minton on his swift and decisive action. It’s rare that a system as large as the Kentucky Court System can respond as quickly and decisively as the Courts did. I only wish the courts utilized the online video platforms sooner that we did. 

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

There are widespread systemic and cultural issues that play major roles in the high rates of minority incarceration. At the District Court level, it is important that judges ensure that all people have fair and equal access to justice regardless of their zip code. 

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

It’s clear that there is a wealth inequity in our legal system, where those with more money have more help to aid them in navigating the legal system. Judges are provided little leeway on this, but we can encourage for better funding for the Department of Public Advocacy and our Metro Public Defenders. 

Karen Faulkner, District Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 8th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Lindsay Volk Beets, Karen Faulkner, and Jessica Stone. All candidates replied to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

Self-represented litigants are held to the same standard as other litigants, but often do not have a deep understanding of the rules or law which govern the Court.  While Judges are unable to advise anyone on the law, a Judge can and should act as a gatekeeper to ensure that the litigant is being treated fairly under the law.  This includes rejecting an agreement not allowable and examining these cases, and all cases, with a close eye.  It is also important that care is taken to thoroughly go over any forms, or agreements made, to ensure that a self-represented litigant understands what he/she/they is doing and that it is being done correctly.  Overall, treating someone who chooses to represent themselves with respect and offering them information that can be provided, such as where they go to file forms, or where the clerk’s office or accounting office is located, is completely within the Judges power and should be exercised diligently.

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

As a former public defender and someone who has focused her career in the area of criminal law, I have had lots of clients incarcerated and many of those clients I was and still am very close to, as well as those outside of my work.  I understand that incarceration is not simply about the loss of liberty for the time spent in jail, but the often-huge collateral consequences associated with incarceration.  It often means loss of employment and ability to support a family, loss of connection with children and support networks, and the loss of control over one’s life.  I believe all of this, among other factors, are important considerations for a Judge when imposing a sentence and know my experience in assisting clients rebuild their lives after incarceration is an important perspective.  This perspective has affected my outlook on incarceration and understanding that when appropriate, alternatives to incarceration should be utilized.

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

Mandatory deportation is a huge collateral consequence for non-citizens and Judges must take a roll in ensuring anyone who takes a plea, understands the ramifications on citizenship it may have.  In my practice, I take the time to consult with those who concentrate in immigration law in order to guarantee my clients get a fair outcome with this in mind.  On the bench, I will ask the necessary questions to determine if an outcome would have an effect on someone appearing before me.  A Judge’s role as a gatekeeper, can ensure that unintended consequences are avoided, if at all possible.

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

Jefferson County District Court is among one of the systems that continues to have a back-log of cases.  Our first goal in Jefferson County should be to reopen the Courts to full time, so that each courtroom is running a morning and afternoon docket.  We also need to streamline the process of resolving cases off docket, including the on-call Judges also signing agreed orders or approving case redockets.  And finally, make it easier for attorneys or self-represented litigants to get a case back on the docket quickly if they are able to resolve a matter, rather than waiting for a date that is set several months away.  These are the easy fixes.  The harder look must include all Judges on the District bench examining how to make court run more efficiently with every judicial partner’s voice at the table, from the public defenders to the private bar, to the jail, and county attorneys in order to make a more efficient and ultimately more effective District Court.

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

Misconduct of any kind, must be addressed in our criminal justice system, but Judges do play a role in addressing police misconduct within a particular case.  Police must follow the law and the Constitution when dealing with someone accused of a crime, and when this does not occur, a Judge may be asked to rule on whether a piece of evidence, obtained in violation of someone’s rights must be thrown out of Court.  A Judge must examine the facts and circumstances and the applicable law to determine if this challenge and ultimate suppression of evidence, should be granted.  Or if a Judge has personal knowledge of the misconduct, making a report would be mandatory.  But until an issue is before the Court, the ability to address it, is limited by the Judge’s role in the Court system.

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

As someone who has spent sixteen years examining and working to support successful reentry of my own clients, whether juveniles or adults, this is a very important question.  The first thing a Judge can do is support alternatives to incarceration, bail alternatives, surety bonds, and treatment courts, so that community reentry isn’t necessary, but staying in the community with support is the reality.  Judges must educate themselves on community resources available as well as issues that cause recidivism, such as addiction and mental illness, so that resource options can be made available to those interacting with the Courts if they are open to it.  I would like to see a stronger partnership with our many fantastic Community programs and District Court as Louisville is a community that has a lot of resources that people just don’t know exist.  And supporting the utilization and expansion of treatment courts so that people have the opportunity to use the resources the Court has in their own pocket, is necessary.  

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

As an attorney, or a Judge, we are required to report misconduct that rises to an ethical concern under the ethical rules.  Reporting misconduct is mandatory and is something I have had to do during my sixteen years of practice, though not often, as we have a fantastic Bar.  My approach is to always attempt to rectify with my colleague first and attempt to make sure I understand correctly the issue.  And if it could not be resolved or was an ethical concern, then report it as required.  I believe this needs to be done thoughtfully and carefully and should not be taken lightly and would take the same approach on the bench.  

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

The Judiciary plays a significant role in maintaining a safe and responsible jail.  The jail is currently understaffed and overcrowded, which has proven to be a deadly combination, without proper services and access to mental health. The Judiciary must examine each individual to determine if there is an alternative that is both safe and just.  I currently serve on the Jail Policy Committee as the private bar member, where we foster bringing down the jail population.  The Judiciary must examine reasonable bail and use our pre-trial system to truly evaluate flight risk and whether someone is a danger to the community.  The Court must create systems that ensure those held at the jail are being brought to court and see a Judge within the timeframe required by law. I believe the Judiciary must look at bail alternatives over incarceration and not use our jails to simply house the mentally ill, the drug addicted and the poor and create a jail that serves rather than harms our justice system.

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

The District Court in Jefferson County effectively shut down with the rest of the world when we were faced with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Unfortunately, we were slow to shift to the new model of court, required during the pandemic and appearing in Court via zoom only began after thousands of cases piled up creating the back-log.  Reopening Courts remotely sooner, would have not only helped with the back-log of cases but with access to justice.  What we have learned throughout the pandemic, is that remote court is possible and effective in some circumstances, and also allows family members and friends of both the victims and accused to appear regularly in court without worry of missing a whole day of work or finding transportation to the courthouse.  Now that we are moving back to in-person court, it is imperative that we not forget what we have learned, and continue to use this remote option to improve attendance, access, fairness, and justice for all.  

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

The high rate of minority incarceration is way bigger than the Court system.  It has roots in our history that starts with our country’s beginnings, it permeates our laws and our policing, and is evidenced in our incarceration rates.  Though changing this systemic problem, is not probable in the hands of one Judge, beginning to shift the model, and looking at treatment over incarceration and alternative sentencing plans, may reduce the numbers overall and provide opportunities for some that were not available before.  Recognizing implicit bias as a sitting Judge and the history of our country and court system is important to begin the process.  Partnering more community resources with the Court system, using programs like Restorative Justice to heal from, as a victim, and learn, as the accused, and utilizing and expanding our treatment courts, so that we stop incarcerating the poor, the mentally ill and drug addicted is a good start.  And when push for progress within the system, we push for fairness for all.  

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

I do not believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help or access to the legal system.  As a former public defender, I am proud of our public defenders and believe they provide an excellent service, but they are overworked and have too high of a caseload.  I believe appointments for representation of the Public Defender’s Office should be reserved for those in need and not be given to someone who can afford counsel, for the convenience of the Court, and if someone chooses to hire private counsel, to honor that right.  I also believe we need to work harder to educate the public on what is available in the Courts and how they access it, and Judges need to hold published office hours so that they can be utilized off-docket if parties have a matter to address.  Finally, I would like for us to continue the hybrid model of court, allowing friends, family, and spectators to appear remotely as we have seen that many in our community cannot afford a day off work, or the transportation, or the childcare and have to choose, ultimately denying them access.

Jessica Stone, District Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 8th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Lindsay Volk Beets, Karen Faulkner, and Jessica Stone. All candidates replied to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

As a prosecutor, I speak with self-represented or pro se litigants daily.  Like a judge, a prosecutor may not give legal advice; however, we may remind the litigants of their right to have an attorney or to ask the court appoint them an attorney if they are unable to afford an attorney.  I plan to stay informed about and offer all of the community resources available to such litigants such as Legal Aid and the Louisville Bar Association’s attorney referral service.  As a prosecutor, I am an appointed, sworn public servant who shall treat everyone equally and with respect. Certainly, I will do the same from the bench.  A judge should remain curious and listen while preventing the litigants from saying anything on the record that could be used against them.  A judge must balance his or her ability to guide a pro se litigant through the court system while adhering to protections afforded under the Bill of Rights.  In most situations, a judge is constantly balancing interests.

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

I have personal knowledge of the effects of incarceration.  I understand that the shortest length of incarceration can cause and/or trigger anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder for the accused and loved ones. I also know enough to know I do not know everything.  I am privileged to not have had a loved one stay incarcerated for an extended period of time.  I imagine it can tear families apart and cause lasting damage, so it is a matter to not take lightly.  

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

I plan to start a foreign language court if elected.  This would be the perfect place to take the time to ensure litigants understand fully the possible consequences of any plea and to potentially reject a plea that could result in disproportionate immigration consequences.  

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

District Court needs to fully reopen.  Years ago and pre-Covid, we handled nearly double the work loaded we are currently.  We can do better.  The people deserve more and should expect more out of the justice system.  Please chose [sic] your next bench wisely and vote for those candidates that promise to work for you.    Another advantage of specialty court dockets such as the foreign language court I propose, is to create dockets that are specifically designed for particular types of cases that have a common need or interest.  Like a well oiled machine, district court will run more efficiently if justice partners come and find more commonly situated cases and litigants and combine them into one court as opposed to spreading throughout the courthouse at different times and on different days.  

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

A judge may only apply the law to the facts.  The judicial cannons [sic] prohibit judicial candidates from speaking on political issues.  Separation of powers doctrine keeps policing within the control of the state.  An overreaching of state powers is not an issue that is within Jefferson County District Court jurisdiction.

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

Having a judge who is more involved in the community is a great place to start.  Campaigning has allowed me to make connections and learn about like-minded community members who want more for Louisville.  I have had the opportunity to meet business owners and non-profit organizers that are offering resources, tools, jobs, and training for economically disadvantaged individuals including those who are reentering the community after being incarcerated. 

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

No.

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

While judges do not have control over the conditions in the jail, if elected I would ask for a daily list of individuals arrested overnight to be sure they are seen by a judge.  I would also ask for the prisoner to correction officer ratio each day.  I would continue to make use of surety and unsecured bonds for petty, non-violent offenses to make sure we are not needlessly holding (and paying for) folks to remain in custody for failing to pay a fine or minor offenses.  

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

Electronic files.  

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

A district court judge has little to no role in choosing what individuals are brought before her.  

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

I would continue to stay involved in my community to keep informed about community based services, educational resources, and programs offered by local nonprofits and local businesses. 

Claudette Patton, District Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 15th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Samuel G. Hayward Jr., Claudette Patton, and Mary Jude Wolford. Hayward did not reply to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

Kentucky’s judicial authorities provide guidance to judges on representing self-represented  litigants and a judge must be cognizant of many things including: the individuals general lack of knowledge on the court system, access to court without compromising neutrality, understand solutions for communication and evidentiary challenges, courtroom and caseflow management, settlement options, due process evaluations, and avoiding unintended bias. 

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

I have experienced someone close to me being incarcerated and the impact made me more empathetic and aware of the 24/7/365 impact on every facet of family, work and personal life.  As a judge I will follow my judicial philosophy to ensure truth, justice, fairness and ethics prevail in my courtroom.     

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

Judges are not to be biased, intimidated or influenced by political outcomes.  While judges can show compassion, they are to follow the facts of a case, take action based on evidence presented and rule on applicable statute.  

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

One of the leading ways to reduce the backlog of cases is to encourage lawyers and parties to communicate early in a case with each other and attempt to mediate and resolve a dispute. A second leading way is to further refine courthouse processes to gain efficiencies and cost savings.   

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

The criminal justice system cannot exist without the trust and confidence of the people. Both judges and police should be held accountable to legal, conduct, and ethical standards to support the integrity of our system.  Should standards not be followed then efforts should be coordinated to rectify the matter.  

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

Judges can help support successful re-entry and reduce recidivism by encouraging individuals to work with education, mentor, financial, social services, and family counseling resources.  These important steps and treatment programs will help individuals with a successful community re-entry.    

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

No

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

To help relieve any over-population of Kentucky’s jails, judges should take into consideration the type of offense (violent v. nonviolent), risk of harm to the community and the victim, but also the safety of the incarcerated. Judges should have the discretion to look at the facts and circumstances of each individual person and case when considering bail or pretrial incarceration.

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

During the pandemic, an order requiring jail systems to provide consistent access using a single web-based format for video conferencing or teleconferencing for the incarcerated would have helped with docket issues, efficiencies and improved access to courtroom proceedings.  

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

Policy changes could help reduce minority incarceration as community safety is paramount in revising policy initiatives.  These policies could include reforming monetary bail and pretrial detention, rethinking what crimes demand prison sentences, and examining rehabilitation and restitution outcomes.      

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

All citizens should have access to justice, counsel and legal assistance.  Judges can promote accessibility by: eliminating barriers that prevent people from understanding and exercising their rights; ensuring fair, impartial, unbiased and just outcomes for all parties; and increasing efficiency of judicial processes without wasting resources. The judiciary governing bodies can expand research on innovative strategies to close the gap between the need for, and availability of, quality legal assistance.

Mary Jude Wolford, District Judge, Jefferson County, 30th Circuit, 15th Division

All Jefferson County voters can vote in this race. The candidates running for this position are Samuel G. Hayward Jr., Claudette Patton, and Mary Jude Wolford. Hayward did not reply to our questionnaire.

What would be or what has been your approach when a self represented litigant comes before you?

As a former Asst. Jefferson County Attorney, I dealt with self-represented litigants on a daily basis and treated them like I try to treat everyone I meet—as an individual worthy of dignity and respect. With self-represented litigants it is important to ensure that they fully understand the court system, the rules of evidence and procedure, what is at stake in the case, and in criminal cases, the seriousness of the charges against them. The court should conduct a hearing to determine the individual’s level of understanding, and if needed in a criminal case, appoint a public defender to represent the defendant as required by the Sixth Amendment. 

Direct experience with incarceration: Have you or anyone close to you been incarcerated? If yes, please share the impact and how it would affect your work as a judge. If no, how will you take into consideration the impact of the decision to incarcerate someone without having experience?

I personally have not been incarcerated, but throughout my career I have handled thousands of criminal cases and dealt with defendants being taken into custody on a regular basis. I cannot emphasize enough the weight of the decision to convict someone to jail, and I recognize the seriousness and impact of that decision. It puts not only an individual’s liberty, but also their housing, employment, custody of their children, health, and more at risk. Each defendant deserves an individualized approach that provides the necessary context for that case and upholds the dignity and respect of that person. 

Immigration: Non citizens may face mandatory deportation if convicted of certain offenses. What role if any should judges play in making sure cases are resolved in ways that avoid disproportionate immigration consequences?

It is the judge’s responsibility to uphold the law, but it is also a judge’s responsibility to ensure each defendant is given a fair trial and thereby avoid unwarranted conviction and deportation. A judge must stay up-to-date on the research and data detailing the factors behind disproportionate immigration consequences, and ensure that the necessary resources are provided to address language and cultural barriers that may increase the likelihood of such consequences. Additionally, the judge must recognize that other factors may be involved, such as addiction or mental illness. 

COVID 19 backlog: In light of the COVID 19 pandemic many court systems are burdened with an extreme backlog of cases. What do you think is the best way to work through these cases and effectively manage the docket?

I am grateful that the Jefferson County Court system has largely alleviated the backlog of cases from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, going forward, it is crucial that our courts have experienced judges facilitating the dockets—judges who are invested in improving the current conditions in the courtroom to ensure this problem does not happen again. Improvements in courthouse technology, such as allowing parties to appear via zoom, is a huge step forward. Additionally, my extensive experience working in District Court grants me the ability to handle more cases at a quicker pace due to my familiarity with the policies and procedures of court. 

Police misconduct: Do you believe police misconduct in our criminal justice system needs addressing? What role if any do the courts have in addressing this issue?

Yes. Misconduct of any kind should never be tolerated in the court system, as an individual’s freedom and liberty are at stake. In order to hold the criminal justice system accountable, familiarity with the police department’s policies is critical. More extensively, we need qualified judges with criminal experience who can recognize potential misconduct, and are not afraid to address these situations and elevate them to higher levels of authority.  

Community re-entry: How can judges support successful community re-entry?

Recidivism is a serious and complex issue that impacts both the individual and their family. Returning citizens face significant barriers to accessing housing, mental health services, and gainful employment that offer the earnings and benefits needed for a healthy, stable life. As a judge, I would support the community-based organizations and employers that provide the supportive environment and services needed for returning citizens to thrive. 

Attorney misconduct: Have you as a judge or in your work as an attorney had to address another attorney's misconduct? How did you approach that and what steps did you take to report or rectify the misconduct?

I have. As an attorney, i (sic) was approached by a neighbor who had gotten involved with an unscrupulous attorney on a probate matter. The attorney was extorting their client for additional fees and taking advantage of their state of grief. I advised the neighbor to report the behavior to the Kentucky Bar Association for investigation. Attorneys are officers of the court, meaning they must maintain the highest ethical standards. Unfortunately, of course, this is not always the case. Improving the overall integrity of our court system is a primary motive in my bid for District Court Judge. 

Overcrowding of jails: What role do judges play in helping to relieve the over population in Kentucky's jails? What specific actions could judges take to relieve this over crowding?

It is the responsibility of the judge to ensure that individuals are held in jail only when absolutely necessary. My 7 years serving as an Asst. Jefferson County Attorney has granted me the difficult but necessary foundation for determining which defendants should be detained and which should be released on their on recognizance. The judge must consider the safety of the community, the requirement that the defendant return for the next court date, and the likelihood that the defendant will pick up new charges. It is a delicate balance, but jail is always a last resort and in some cases, home incarceration may be a good option. When the judge feels she must detain a defendant, she must set an appropriate, equitable bail that falls within the affordability for that defendant. 

COVID 19 policy: What judicial administrative order or policy do you wish had been put in place during the COVID 19 pandemic?

 While the backlog of cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer a prevalent issue in the Jefferson County courts system, I believe implementing a policy in which a case can only continue for 8-10 weeks would have been beneficial. Justice delayed is justice denied. When cases are pushed back, memories fade, victims lose hope, and momentum is lost. Keeping cases on a structured timeline creates greater confidence in the judicial system overall and holds people accountable. 

Disproportionate incarceration of people of color: What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration? And what changes can judges make to reduce these numbers?

We have to acknowledge that our criminal justice system’s role in the high rates of minority incarceration speaks to a much larger issue of racism, xenophobia, and personal bias that is embedded into our society. It is much more than an individual’s racial,  ethnic, or cultural identity. Disproportionate rates of incarceration begin with where an individual is born, what neighborhood they grew up in, were they subject to adverse childhood experiences?, where did they attend school?, were they able to attain secondary education?, what employment opportunities were accessible for them?, and so forth. As a judge, one must be keenly aware of this context and how disparities play a role in your courtroom. Every human being is subject to personal bias. Our judges must recognize these factors, and understand that addressing one’s personal bias is lifelong work.  

Adequate access to legal help and legal system: Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not what will you do as a judge to provide wider and better access?

Adequate access to legal help and the legal system is a serious issue, and the easy answer would be to appoint public defenders. However, our public defenders are overworked, underpaid, and facing serious levels of burnout. Our judges must have the expertise to identify when representation is needed. Our judges can also identify and serve as connectors for legal aid, which is an incredible resource for civil cases, as well as other resources of which a defendant or victim may not be aware.