Judicial Nominating Commission announces nominees for Kentucky Court of Appeals judgeship

FRANKFORT, Ky., March 12, 2019 – The Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr., today announced nominees to fill the judicial vacancy on the Kentucky Court of Appeals. The vacancy is in the court’s 3rd District, Division 1, which is made up of 27 counties.   

The three nominees for the judgeship are attorneys Jacqueline M. Caldwell of Bardstown, Walter F. Maguire Sr. of Somerset and Jonathan R. Spalding of Lebanon.

Caldwell has been a solo practitioner since 2003, practicing family law and handling cases involving personal injury, general civil issues, probate, and minor criminal and traffic matters. She also serves as a guardian ad litem in disability cases. She earned her juris doctor from the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law.

Maguire served the 28th Judicial Circuit (Lincoln, Pulaski and Rockcastle counties) as a Family Court judge from 2007-2013. He was a district judge for the 28th Judicial District (Pulaski and Rockcastle counties) from 1978-82 and 1986-2004.    

Spalding is the city attorney for Bradfordsville and serves as a court-appointed parent advocate and guardian ad litem for children. He earned his juris doctor from the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law.

The judicial seat became vacant when Justice Debra Hembree Lambert was elected to the Supreme Court of Kentucky in November 2018.

Kentucky Court of Appeals
The Kentucky Court of Appeals, along with the Supreme Court of Kentucky, was formed after the 1975 enactment of the Judicial Article that created Kentucky’s unified court system. Fourteen judges, two elected from each of the seven appellate districts, serve on the Court of Appeals for terms of eight years.

Nearly all cases heard by the Court of Appeals come to it on appeal from a lower court. If a case is tried in Circuit Court or District Court and the losing parties involved are not satisfied with the outcome, they may ask for a higher court to review the correctness of the trial court’s decisions. Some cases, such as criminal case acquittals and divorces, may not be appealed. In a divorce case, however, child custody and property rights decisions may be appealed. With a few exceptions, most cases appealed from Circuit Court go to the Court of Appeals. The case is not retried at the appeals level. Instead, the original trial record is reviewed, with attorneys presenting the legal issues to the court for a decision.

Court of Appeals judges are divided into panels of three to review and decide cases, with the majority deciding the outcome. The panels do not sit permanently in one location, but travel throughout the state to hear appeals. When the Court of Appeals publishes its rulings on cases, those rulings become the governing case law for all such similar cases in the trial courts of Kentucky.

Judicial Nominating Commission
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.

Judicial Nominating Process
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.

Makeup of the Judicial Nominating Commission
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.

Administrative Office of the Courts
The Administrative Office of the Courts in Frankfort is the operations arm for the state court system. The AOC supports the activities of more than 3,400 court system employees and 404 elected justices, judges and circuit court clerks. As the fiscal agent for the state court system, the AOC executes the Judicial Branch budget.