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Kentucky Supreme Court

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Kentucky Supreme Court
Court information
Justices:   7
Founded:   1975
Chief:  $
Associates:  $
Judicial selection
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   8 years
Active justices

Bill Cunningham (Kentucky)  •  Lisabeth Hughes Abramson  •  Mary Noble  •  John D. Minton, Jr.  •  Daniel Venters  •  Michelle Keller  •  

Seal of Kentucky.png

The Kentucky Supreme Court is the court of last resort in Kentucky. Seven justices sit on the Supreme Court and all rule on appeals. In addition, the Supreme Court "establishes rules of practice and procedure for all Kentucky judges and attorneys."


Seven justices from seven districts create the Supreme Court.

The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected by
Associate justice Bill Cunningham (Kentucky)2007-2023
Associate justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson2007-2023Gov. Ernie Fletcher
Deputy chief justice Mary Noble2006-2016
Chief justice John D. Minton, Jr.2006-2023Gov. Ernie Fletcher
Associate justice Daniel Venters2008-2019Gov. Steve Beshear
Associate justice Michelle Keller2013-2023Gov. Steve Beshear

Chief justice

The Chief Justice is elected by the other justices for four year terms. The Chief Justice serves in an administrative role over the courts. On May 12, 2008, John Minton was elected as the fifth Chief Justice of Kentucky. "I am honored by the vote of my colleagues," said Justice Minton in response to being elected chief justice. "I look forward to working with the members of the Court and the Court of Justice family in service to the citizens of the Commonwealth." "Justice Minton is an outstanding scholar and a person of unquestioned integrity," said former Chief Justice Lambert. "His experience serving as a judge for three levels of Kentucky courts equips him well to be an outstanding chief justice. I am delighted with his election."[1]


All appeals involving imprisonment for 20 years or more, life imprisonment, or the death penalty go directly to the Supreme Court; all other appeals are heard by the lower courts, and are only permitted to be heard by the Supreme Court if the Court of Appeals consents.[2]

Judicial selection

The Kentucky Supreme Court chamber.

Justices are elected for eight year terms in non-partisan elections.

Political outlook

See also: Political outlook of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Kentucky was given a Campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Kentucky received a score of 0.17. Based on the justices selected, Kentucky was the 16th most conservative court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[3]


For the position of Supreme Court justice, which is an eight year staggered term, the candidate must be a citizen of the United States, a resident of both the Commonwealth, and of the district from which he is elected for 2 years next preceding his taking office and licensed to practice law in the courts of the Commonwealth and a licensed attorney for at least 8 years.[4] The candidate must file with the Secretary of State and the filing fee is $200.00.

Removal of justices

"Kentucky judges may be removed in one of two ways:

  • After notice and hearing, the judicial conduct commission may admonish, reprimand, censure, suspend, retire, or remove a judge. The commission's decisions are subject to review by the supreme court.
  • Judges may be impeached by the house of representatives and convicted by a two-thirds vote of the senate."[5]


Please note: These numbers include statewide criminal and civil appeals.

Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2012 493 429
2011 504 463
2010 471 463
2009 471 567
2008 544 564
2007 580 591


Notable decisions


Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Kentucky earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[7]

History of the court

The Kentucky state capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky, which houses the Kentucky Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Kentucky was created with a constitutional amendment in 1975, releasing the burden from the role that the Kentucky Court of Appeals had had.[8] The court meets in a courtroom located on the second floor of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort. The second floor of the capitol building is also home to offices for the justices and Supreme Court personnel.

Notable firsts

See also

External links



CandidateIncumbencyPrimary VoteElection Vote
StumboJanet Stumbo    NoExpression error: Unexpected > operator.41.9%   DefeatedD


See also: 2010 State Supreme Court elections

Incumbent Daniel Venters ran uncontested and was re-elected.

Kentucky Supreme Court
XXYEARXX General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Daniel Venters (D) BallotCheckMark.png n/a n/a


See also: State Supreme Court elections, 2008

Incumbents Lisabeth Hughes Abramson and Mary C. Noble were both re-elected during the 2008 races.

Kentucky Supreme Court
2008 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Lisabeth Hughes Abramson BallotCheckMark.png n/a 55%
Mary C. Noble n/a 45%
Kentucky Supreme Court
2008 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Mary C. Noble BallotCheckMark.png n/a n/a

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