The Judicial Nominating Commission helps fill judicial vacancies by appointment when a vacancy occurs outside of the election cycle. The Kentucky Constitution established the Judicial Nominating Commission (KY. CONST. § 118; SCR 6.000, et seq.).
Composition of the Judicial Nominating Commissions
There are currently 61 nominating commissions in Kentucky, one for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, one for each judicial circuit and one for each judicial district. If the circuit and district have the same boundaries, then one commission serves both.
Each commission has seven members and is comprised of the chief justice of Kentucky (who also serves as chair), two attorneys elected by all attorneys in the vacancy’s jurisdiction and four non-attorney Kentucky citizens who are appointed by the governor. The four citizens must equally represent the two major political parties.
A JNC member must be a resident of the circuit or district he or she represents and may not hold any other public office or hold an office in a political party or organization.
JNC members serve four-year terms. Members are not compensated for their services, but are reimbursed for expenses for the days they perform their duties. The executive secretary of the JNC provides administrative support for, and maintains the records of, the nominating commissions.
When a judicial vacancy occurs, the executive secretary of the JNC notifies all attorneys and the public in the affected judicial circuit or district. Attorneys can recommend someone or nominate themselves. Interested attorneys must complete an application and return it to the executive secretary of the JNC.
The chief justice meets with the JNC to select three nominees and then forwards those names to the governor. The names of the three nominees are listed in alphabetical order without indicating the commission’s preference. The governor must appoint a judge from this list of three. If the governor does not appoint a judge within 60 days of receiving the list of nominees, the appointment is made by the chief justice from the list of nominees.