FRANKFORT – The state courts system started the process Wednesday to fill a vacant judgeship that has been linked to Democratic efforts to retake control of the state Senate.
The Court of Justice filed on its Web site Wednesday a notice about filling the vacancy created by last January’s resignation of Doughlas M. George as circuit judge in the 11th Judicial Circuit, which covers Green, Marion, Taylor and Washington counties. George resigned to join the senior judges program and is currently serving as a senior judge.
The notice said any person who wants to be nominated or to recommend someone for the vacancy should notify the Judicial Nominating Commission by Sept. 22. Any attorney in the circuit interested in being considered for the vacancy must return a questionnaire to the state courts by Oct. 6.
The nominating commission, tentatively scheduled to meet Oct. 23, must present three names to Gov. Steve Beshear, who will appoint George’s replacement.
The seven members on the nominating commission are: Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr., Kentucky Bar Association members James L. Avritt and Robert Spragens Jr., and four non-attorney members appointed by the governor – David R. Carney, Vernon E. Bagby, Blanche C. Minor and Sheila W. Newcomb. The four citizens equally represent the two major political parties and live in the judicial circuit they represent.
Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, recently said he expects the Democratic governor to appoint Senate Majority Leader Dan Kelly, R-Springfield, to the judgeship.
Williams charged that Beshear is “poisoning” the political atmosphere in the Capitol by removing Republicans from the Senate.
Last month, Democrat Robin Webb of Grayson won in a special election a state Senate seat that had been held by Republican Charlie Borders. The northeastern Kentucky seat in the 18th Senate District became open when Borders accepted a Beshear appointment in July to the state Public Service Commission.
With Webb’s victory, the Republican majority in the Senate decreased from 20-17, with one independent who caucuses with the GOP.
In July, Beshear said Kelly had told him several months ago that he was interested in the appointment.
Kelly, who has represented the 14th state Senate District that includes Marion, Mercer, Nelson, Taylor and Washington counties since 1991, has declined to comment to reporters about the judicial vacancy.
Beshear spokesman Jay Blanton has noted that the nominating commission that must send names to the governor has not yet met.
If Beshear did appoint Kelly, the governor could call a special election for Kelly’s vacant state Senate seat after 35 days. Party leaders in the district would select their nominees.
Several names have been mentioned as possible candidates in a special election if Kelly vacates his state Senate seat.
The Democrats are former state Rep. Jodie Haydon of Bardstown; Nicky Rapier, son of the late state Rep. Kenny Rapier of Bardstown; and Marion County Attorney Joe Mattingly. Rep. Jimmy Higdon of Lebanon has been mentioned as a Republican candidate.