Thursday, April 26, 2018

Most judicial candidates on May 22 primary ballots sign committee's proffered pledge to campaign fairly

Each election year the Committee asks judicial candidates to sign a pledge that they will conduct their campaigns in accordance with the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct, and disavow advertising that uses false or misleading information that impugns the integrity of a candidate or the judicial system, or that erodes public trust and confident in the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.

Most of the candidates who are opposed in the May 22 primary have signed the pledge. Primaries are held in judicial races with three or more candidates, sending the top two vote-getters to the Nov. 6 general election. The primary-ballot candidates signing the pledge are listed below, with the number of candidates in the race if more than three. This list has been updated since the original April 26 posting, and will continue to be updated if more candidates on primary ballots submit agreements. Candidates who do NOT appear on the primary ballot are not listed; this list will be updated for the general election.

Debra Hembree Lambert, Burnside
David Tapp, Somerset
JUDGE OF THE COURT of APPEALS, Seventh District, unexpired term (six candidates)
David Barber, Morehead
Kevin Sinnette, Ashland
Gene Smallwood, Whitesburg
Larry Thompson, Pikeville
CIRCUIT JUDGE, Family Court, unexpired term, 16th Circuit, 5th Division
Pete Roush, Covington
Terri King Schoborg, Covington
CIRCUIT JUDGE, Family Court, unexpired term, 22nd Circuit, 1st Division (four candidates)
Gregory Napier, Lexington
Nam Nguyen, Lexington
Eileen O'Brien, Lexington
CIRCUIT JUDGE, Family Court, unexpired term, 30th Circuit, 4th Division (four candidates)
Bryan Gatewood, Fisherville
Lauren Adams Ogden, Louisville
Shelley Santry, Louisville
6th District, 3rd Division
Daniel M. "Nick" Burlew, Owensboro
Misty Miller, Maceo
11th District, 2nd Division (five candidates)
Jude Hagan, Lebanon
Dawn McCauley, Lebanon
Jeremy Ancil Wood, Campbellsville
30th District, 3rd Division
Tracy Davis, Louisville
Jim Green, Prospect
30th District, 6th Division
Sean Delahanty, Louisville
Alex Gaddis, Louisville
30th District, 9th Division (four candidates)
Danny Alvarez, Louisville
Andre Bergeron, Louisville
Karen Faulkner, Louisville
33rd District (six candidates)
B. Cody Goehring, Hazard
Becky Williams Patterson, Hazard
Teresa Combs Reed, Hazard
Sheila Clemons Stoffel, Hazard
35th District, 1st Division (four candidates)
Joe Jett Friend, Pikeville
Amber Hunt Sisco, Pikeville
Robert F. Wright, Pikeville
35th District, 2nd Division (five candidates)
Tommy Chamberlin, Pikeville
Andrew Tyler Friend, Pikeville
Justin Cory Hamilton, Pikeville
39th District
Billy Oliver, Campton
Jarett Rose, Stanton
51st District, 2nd Division (four candidates)
David Curlin, Henderson
Leslie Newman, Henderson
Greg Sutton, Henderson
54th District, Division 2
Angela Greene, Union
Marcia Thomas, Petersburg

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Committee receives complaint, gets response and prompt correction from target of complaint

The committee received a complaint from a judicial candidate alleging that another candidate in a race misrepresented the latter candidate’s qualifications by describing the race as if the complainant was not in it. The candidate who was the object of the complaint, soon after being notified of the complaint, acknowledged his error and corrected his online postings. Both candidates were among those who had already signed an agreement with the committee pledging to avoid misleading voters.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Committee reorganizes for 2018, which may be busy

The Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee has elected new officers for 2018, a year that could be a busy one for the committee, with more than 200 candidates for Kentucky judgeships.

Judge Anthony Wilhoit
The new chair and president of the Committee is former Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Anthony Wilhoit, who has served as vice chair and chair in the past. He succeeds Kate Hendrickson of Maysville, who remains on the Committee. Cecile Schubert of Richmond and Al Cross of Frankfort were re-elected vice chair and secretary, respectively. Retired Judge Charles Boteler, a former chair who now lives in Louisville, was elected treasurer. He succeeds Jon Fleischaker of Louisivlle, who remains on the Committee.

Following an internal review, the committee will soon send letters to judicial candidates asking them to sign an agreement regarding their campaign activities, as it has in the past. Names of those signing the agreement will be publicized. For judgeships with more than two candidates, primary elections on May 22 will reduce the fields to the top two vote-getters.

For a list of Kentucky judicial candidate filings, click here. This list includes candidates for commonwealth's attorney in multi-county districts, who file with the secretary of state. Those races are partisan and not part of the committee's purview; all races for judgeships are nonpartisan, making them fundamentally different from elections for legislative and executive positions.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Judicial candidates sign campaign pledges

Each year judicial elections are held, the Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee asks candidates to sign a pledge that they will conduct their campaigns in accordance with the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct, disavow advertising that uses false or misleading information that impugns the integrity of a candidate or the judicial system, or that erodes public trust and confident in the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.

In alphabetical order, these are the candidates who signed the pledge this year, and the jurisdictions in which they are running:

Gina Kay Calvert, Louisville, 30th Judicial Circuit (Family Court)
John A. Cook, Louisville, 30th Judicial District
Stephen C. Emery, Westport, 12th Judicial Circuit (Family Court)
Bob Heleringer, Louisville, 30th Judicial District
Deanna Henschel, Paducah, 2nd Judicial Circuit (Family Court)
Susan Montalvo Gesser, Owensboro, 6th Judicial Circuit (Family Court)
Julie Hawes Gordon, Owensboro, 6th Judicial Circuit (Family Court)
Andrea Janovic, Fort Thomas, 17th Judicial District
James Lesousky Jr., Louisville, 30th Judicial District
Danny Lee Lunsford Jr., Harlan, 26th Judicial District
Anita Mindrup-Ivie, Henderson, 51st Judicial District
Lauren Adams Ogden, 30th Judicial Circuit (Family Court)
Michael Pate, La Grange, 12th Judicial Circuit
John Gabriel Pendleton, Glasgow, 43rd Judicial District
Angela Thompson, Owensboro, 6th Judicial Circuit (Family Court)
William Tingley, Louisville, 30th Judicial Circuit (Family Court)
Laurance B. Van Meter, Lexington, Supreme Court (5th District)
Abby Voelter, Cold Spring, 17th Judicial District
Kimberly Blair Walson, Winchester, 25th Judicial Circuit (Family Court)
Stephanie C. Willis, Louisville, 30th Judicial District

For lists of all candidates for each office, go to

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Judicial elections are different; candidates shouldn’t compromise themselves, and shouldn’t mislead voters

By Charles Boteler, Chair, Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee Inc.
In elections by districts across the state, Kentuckians will select in November six judges for family court, three for circuit court, five district court judges, and one justice for the Kentucky Supreme Court. We have selected our state judges in Kentucky by popular election since 1850. Since 1976 we have elected judges in non-partisan elections.
Judicial elections present problems that are not common in elections for the legislative and executive branches of government. Candidates for legislator, mayor, governor, or president typically campaign on how they will address specific issues. Campaign platforms in these races are the norm and entirely proper.
Issue-oriented campaigns for judicial office, however, create troublesome possibilities. For instance, judicial independence requires that a judge be able to approach each case without regard to partisan connections, and not limited to pre-determined opinions that tend to foreclose a full consideration of all the issues and views that may be present in a real case that comes before a judge for adjudication. In short, a judge should be guided only by a reasoned application of the law to the facts, and a determination that is made only when the case is heard and decided.
One attempt to counter the problem created by popular judicial elections has been the use of ethics codes that limited the speech that judicial candidates could use. Increasingly, such codes have been determined to conflict with the free-speech clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In response to a case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2002, a group of Kentucky citizens incorporated the Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee in 2005.
The KJCCC is a non-partisan, non-governmental group of citizens from across the Commonwealth whose mission is to ensure that judicial campaigns in Kentucky promote an independent and impartial judiciary.
Judicial campaign speech has become increasingly untethered to state-enforced campaign-conduct codes. Most recently, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals largely affirmed a decision by Judge Amal Thapar of the Eastern District of Kentucky, striking down additional portions of Kentucky’s judicial campaign restrictions.
Though more free speech in judicial elections may be healthy in many respects, the tension between popular election and judicial independence and impartiality is left unresolved. The KJCCC believes that judicial candidates can make statements in their campaigns that may limit their independence and may impact their ability to decide cases properly and fairly. Likewise, misleading, unfair, and undignified campaigning, though constitutionally permissible as free speech, may still impair the independence, competence, and integrity of Kentucky’s judicial branch.
Therefore, the KJCCC continues to ask judicial candidates to refrain from waging campaigns that utilize unfair, misleading, and excessively partisan tactics. We will continue to comment if a judicial candidate campaigns in such a way, because we believe such campaigns harm our legal system and society.
In addition, we ask voters to exercise their utmost care and good judgment to make sure that Kentucky selects a talented and independent judiciary. Most judicial decision-making does not involve the hot button, ideological disputes that often divide society. What a judicial candidate might opine about abortion, same sex marriage, or textualism in constitutional interpretation will have little, if any, relevance to the day-to-day work of a Kentucky judge. A judicial candidate’s knowledge of various areas of law, the willingness to consider all positions with an open mind, a commitment to be an impartial umpire; these are the qualities we need in our judges.

Democracy requires the efforts of all citizens. Judicial candidates committed to upholding high standards of independence, fairness, and integrity will serve us well. Likewise, Kentucky voters must demand high standards in their judicial candidates. Together we can ensure that the Commonwealth has the kind of judiciary we all deserve.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee finds ad by Kentucky Supreme Court candidate falsely misrepresents the role of a judge, and his opponent made inaccurate and unsubstantiated claims

A claim by Letcher Circuit Judge Sam Wright in his campaign for the Kentucky Supreme Court is false and misrepresents the role of a judge or justice, the Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee has found.

On a counter-complaint by Judge Wright, the committee found that his opponent, Court of Appeals Judge Janet Stumbo, made an inaccurate claim about her length of service, and that her campaign made a claim about Wright’s fund-raising that the committee was unable to substantiate.

The first complaint, by Stumbo’s campaign, was about a Wright commercial saying Stumbo “sided with criminals nearly 60 percent of the time” when she was on the Supreme Court. Wright told the committee that the figure “comes from the fact that Janet Stumbo voted in favor of the convicted criminal defendant in 59% of the published cases in which she voted during the last five years she was a justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court.  The published cases were used because those are the ones in which the court is establishing law or making precedent.”

In a letter to Wright, the committee said, “The ad fails to consider the number of unpublished criminal cases in which Janet Stumbo would have participated as a justice on the Supreme Court. The 60 percent figure may be significantly different if all criminal cases were considered.”

Beyond the question of numbers, the committee told Wright that judges and justices are supposed “to base decisions on the law and to not take sides.  Many convictions are reversed due to procedural, statutory or constitutional issues, and these decisions should not be represented as ‘siding with criminals.’ To say otherwise is to purposely mislead the electorate on the role of a judge or justice.”

The committee told Wright, “Our committee has determined in previous elections for the Kentucky Supreme Court that similar campaign ads making this type of allegation were improper, and we do so again. Your ad undermines the high standards by which judicial campaigns should be conducted.”

The committee reminded Wright, and reminds voters, that Kentucky’s nonpartisan judicial elections are different from those for executive or legislative offices. The committee believes campaigns for judicial office should uphold the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. The committee asked Wright to “cease the use of this ad or similar advertising making this claim and refrain from using it in the remainder of the campaign.”

After being notified of the complaint against him, Wright filed two complaints against Stumbo, making several allegations. The committee concluded that two were worthy of examination: Stumbo’s claim in an ad that she has 25 years of experience as an appellate-court judge, “more than any other person in the history of this commonwealth,” and her campaign’s May 7 claim on its Facebook page that he was raising money by calling prospects and handing the phone to another person who requested a contribution to Wright’s campaign.

The committee found that Justice Donald Wintersheimer served on the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court for more than 29 years, more than Stumbo. It asked the Stumbo campaign for the source of its fund-raising allegation, and the campaign provided a name. However, that person did not substantiate the claim made by the campaign.

The Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee is an independent, non-governmental, non-partisan group of interested citizens from all over Kentucky, with a mix of lawyers, non-lawyers, Democrats, Republicans and independents. Each year there is a judicial election, the committee offers candidates an agreement in which they pledge to run fair and dignified campaigns, and disavow false or misleading ads and other campaign tactics that “impugn the integrity of the judicial system, the integrity of a candidate, or erode public trust and confidence in the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.” Only two of the 26 candidates seeking judicial office in Kentucky this fall did not sign the agreement: Ron Schwoeppe, who is running for a district judgeship in Louisville, and Judge Sam Wright.

Members of the committee are retired circuit judge Charles Boteler, Owensboro; retired Court of Appeals judge Tony Wilhoit, Versailles; Al Cross, Frankfort, secretary; Jon Fleischaker, Louisville, secretary; Jane Baker, Glasgow; Steve Cawood, Pineville; William Fortune, Lexington; Kate Hendrickson, Maysville; Spencer Noe, Lexington; Dennis Null, Mayfield; Marcia Milby Ridings, London; Howard Roberts, Pikeville; Bill Robinson, Covington; Cecile Schubert, Richmond; Kathy Walker, Paintsville; and Elaine Wilson, Somerset.