Proposal would allow Kentucky governor to appoint Supreme Court - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Proposal would allow Kentucky governor to appoint Supreme Court Justices and Appeals Court Judges

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Appeals courtroom in Louisville Appeals courtroom in Louisville
Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville lawmaker said he wants to take the politics out of Kentucky’s judicial system by changing the way some judges are chosen.

Right now, voters elect state Supreme Court Justices and Appeals Court Judges. But Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) said it is time to allow the governor to appoint higher court judges.

“I just don't think we're going to be able to attract high-quality candidates much longer," Nemes said. "I think we're getting to a crisis point in Kentucky."

Nemes said it is a crisis caused by a flawed system for choosing higher court judges. He said running for a seat on either the Appeals Court or the state Supreme Court takes too much time.

“Most attorneys are not going to take a year out of their life, effectively shut their law practice down, for the chance that they might win and election,” Nemes said.

He also said it is increasingly expensive to run with the campaigns being paid for primarily by lawyers.

“I think it is bad that lawyers fund the judicial races and then are in front of the judges right after the election,” Nemes said.

Nemes, who is a lawyer, wants to change the state constitution to allow the governor to appoint Supreme Court Justices and Appeals Court Judges from a list submitted by an independent commission, which includes both attorneys and regular citizens.

“I don't think many people, many voters, know who their judges are,” Nemes said. “This would put it in the hands of people in the community to submit names to the governor.”

Gov. Matt Bevin supports the idea of appointing judges, recently telling lawyers who had gathered for a meeting of the Federalist Society, "We have a remarkable number of people who have no business being judges."

But former Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott, who ran for governor in 2015, said judicial elections should remain in the hands of the people.

“With us being able to speak to the people, the people are a good judge of character, I think," Scott said. "I trust the people."

Nemes said his bill does allow voters to choose whether judges should remain on the bench after their eight-year term expires.

“I do keep into the process electoral accountability,” Nemes said.

The proposal does not apply to circuit and district court judges, though Nemes said he would be open to that.

Nemes admits passage is a longshot next year, but he said it is time to start the conversation.

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