Judicial Nominating Commission announces nominees for McCracken district judge

FRANKFORT, Ky., March 1, 2024 – The Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice of the Commonwealth Laurance B. VanMeter, today announced nominees to fill the District Court judicial vacancy in McCracken County. McCracken makes up the 2nd Judicial District and the vacancy is in the district’s Division 2.

The three nominees for the judgeship are attorneys Jennie Marie Hines, James Carl Mills and Craig Fletcher Newbern Jr., all of Paducah.

Hines is in private practice with the law firm of Boehl, Stopher & Graves and was previously a staff attorney for the Kentucky Court of Appeals from 2017-2023. She has practiced law for 13 years. She served as a security forces officer for the U.S. Air Force from 2009-2013. She received her juris doctor from the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law.

Mills has served as an attorney with the McCracken County commonwealth’s attorney for more than seven years. He prosecutes felonies, with an emphasis on homicides, in addition to other work. He was previously a defense attorney in the state Department of Public Advocacy from 2007-2015. He received his juris doctor from Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law.

Newbern has served as an assistant county attorney for the McCracken County Attorney’s Office for five years and is the prosecutor for the office’s general criminal division. He has practiced law for more than 18 years and was previously in private practice, worked in legal aid and served as a defense attorney in the state Department of Public Advocacy. From 2008-2010, he was an assistant attorney general under then-Attorney General Jack Conway. He received his juris doctor from Southern Illinois University Carbondale School of Law.

The judicial seat became vacant when Judge Chris Hollowell passed away Oct. 4, 2023.  

District Court
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.

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. The chief justice 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 of the state court system. The AOC supports the activities of nearly 3,300 court system employees and 413 elected justices, judges and circuit court clerks. As the fiscal agent for the state court system, the AOC executes the Judicial Branch budget.