FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr., announced nominees Tuesday to fill the District Court vacancy in Greenup and Lewis counties.
The counties make up the 20th Judicial District.
The three nominees for the judgeship are attorneys Paul Eugene Craft of Russell, Rhese David McKenzie of Flatwoods and Matthew Jackson Warnock of Ashland.
Craft is a managing partner with the law firm of McGinnis Leslie and serves as the city attorney for Worthington and South Shore. He received his juris doctor from the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
McKenzie serves as a public advocate with the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy. He received his juris doctor from the Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law.
Warnock is in law practice with the firm of Warnock & Warnock and serves as an assistant county attorney for Greenup County. He received his juris doctor from the University of Dayton School of Law.
The judicial seat became vacant when Judge Brian C. McCloud was appointed as a Circuit Court judge for Greenup and Lewis to fill a vacancy. The appointment was effective Feb. 24.
District Court judges handle juvenile matters, city and county ordinances, misdemeanors, violations, traffic offenses, probate of wills, arraignments, felony probable cause hearings, small claims involving $2,500 or less, civil cases involving $5,000 or less, voluntary and involuntary mental commitments and cases relating to domestic violence and abuse.
The Judicial Nominating Commission helps fill judicial vacancies by appointment when a vacancy occurs outside of the election cycle. The Kentucky Constitution established the JNC. Ky. Const. § 118; SCR 6.000, et seq.
When a judicial vacancy occurs, the executive secretary of the JNC publishes a notice of vacancy in the judicial circuit or the judicial district affected.
Attorneys may recommend someone or nominate themselves. The names of the applicants are not released. Once nominations occur, the individuals interested in the position return a questionnaire to the Office of the Chief Justice.
Chief Justice Minton then meets with the Judicial Nominating Commission to choose three nominees. Because the Kentucky Constitution requires that three names be submitted to the governor, in some cases the commission submits an attorney’s name even though the attorney did not apply.
A letter naming the three nominees is sent to the governor for review. The governor has 60 days to appoint a replacement and his office makes the announcement.
The commission has seven members. The membership is comprised of the chief justice of Kentucky (who also serves as chair), two lawyers elected by all the lawyers in their circuit/district and four Kentucky citizens who are appointed by the governor.
The four citizens appointed by the governor must equally represent the two major political parties, so two must be Democrats and two must be Republicans.
It is the responsibility of the commission to submit a list of three names to the governor and the governor must appoint a judge from this list of three.