What is your overall judicial philosophy?
The Supreme Court is the court of last resort. It is the final interpreter of the law. Kentucky law consists of the state's Constitution (adopted by the people), the state's statutes (enacted by the General Assembly), and what is referred to as common law (court interpretations of the Constitution, statutes, regulations, etc.). I believe that major changes in the law concerning policy should come from the legislative branch of government.
Which United States Supreme Court Justice, past or present, would you compare your judicial philosophy to?
I see myself as an independent judge, who does not mold his philosophy after any particular Supreme Court justice.
Why are you qualified for this position?
The Kentucky Supreme Court is the highest court in Kentucky. I have served the citizens of Kentucky with fairness and integrity as a judge for over 22 years, first as a district (trial court) judge, and the last 15 years as a judge of the Kentucky Court of Appeals (Kentucky's second highest court). I am the only candidate in this race with judicial experience, and the only candidate with an advanced law degree. As a judge on the Court of Appeals, I have ruled on over 5000 cases, and have written over 1700 opinions, many published, and all of public record. As a district judge for almost 8 years, I presided over thousands of cases. Prior legal service includes private practice, three years as a full-time educator, and two years as a city attorney in a legal career that covers over 36 years.
Kentucky's Constitution mandates that judicial elections be non-partisan. Citizens need to have confidence that their cases will be decided based on the Constitution and the law and nothing else. A judge should not have a political agenda. He/she should bring an open mind to the bench. I have run a non-partisan campaign. I will continue to keep politics out of my court decisions, interpret the law fairly, and follow the Constitution.
What improvements do you believe could be made to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the state court system?
I would like to reduce the time it takes for the Supreme Court to grant or deny discretionary review (to hear a case). When I started on the Court of Appeals, 15 years ago, it could take 24 or more months after filing a notice of appeal for an opinion to be rendered. Through cooperation and hard work, we reduced that time to one year or less. I believe the same principles could be applied to the Supreme Court.
Do you believe that all citizens have adequate access to legal help and the legal system? If not, what can be done to provide wider and better access?
I believe that it is undisputed that many do not have equal access to legal help and the legal system. This goes beyond the issue of one person's attorney being better than another, but to the fact that some cannot afford or obtain access to any attorney or court. Circumstances such as poverty, mental and physical disability, age, language, lack of education, and even obstacles such as contracts of adhesion, which are more prevalent among those with lower incomes, operate as barriers to obtaining access to the legal system. The solutions are not simple. However, our society is founded upon the principle of equal justice for all, which requires all citizens to have access to the courts. Adequate funding for legal access seems the most obvious solution, but the well is not bottomless, where will the money come from? Cooperation and coordination between the courts, the legal community, law schools, social services, state and federal government agencies, and volunteer organizations is also necessary to identify and solve these very real problems. I also believe that the judiciary, entrusted with the duty of protecting the rights of all the people, has a responsibility to be a leader in this effort.