J. Christopher McNeill grew up on a family farm in Fulton County in his native Western Kentucky. He took office May 1, 2020, after being appointed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals by Gov. Andy Beshear.
He previously practiced law for more than 20 years. During that time, he was in private civil practice and a staff attorney for the Kentucky Court of Appeals. As directing attorney for the Public Defender’s Office in McCracken County, he was involved in or supervised representation in over 70,000 cases for six primary counties and multiple other counties in the Purchase and Pennyrile districts.
He earned a juris doctor by attending night school at Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law while working full time for a Kentucky Office of Inspector General. He also completed a bachelor's degree in agriculture and a master’s degree in organizational communication from Murray State University. He completed the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Judge McNeill is a past president of the McCracken County Bar Association. He has been a member of the McCracken County Specialty Court Board (formerly Drug Court) since its inception in 2005. He is also a member and past president of the Rotary Club of Paducah. In 2012, the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy honored him with its Professionalism and Excellence Award. In 2018, the Kentucky Bar Association chose him to participate in its inaugural Leadership Conference for lawyers who were serving as leaders in their profession and communities.
He is a former member of the Impact Poverty study group sponsored by the United Way in Paducah and a former vice-chair of Paducah Main Street, which recognized him with its Distinguished Service Award in 2008. He serves as a deacon of First Baptist Church in Paducah.
Chris and his wife, Melanie, live in Paducah and have been married for 26 years and have two sons, Walker and Whitson.