Judicial Nominating Commission announces circuit judge nominees for Greenup and Lewis

Jan 29, 2021

Credit Kiowa County Press

The Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr., today announced nominees to fill the Circuit Court judicial vacancy for Greenup and Lewis counties. The counties make up the 20th Judicial Circuit and the vacancy is in the circuit’s Division 1.

The three nominees for the judgeship are attorneys Paul Eugene Craft of Russell, Brian Christopher McCloud of Worthington and Matthew Jackson Warnock of Ashland.

Craft is a managing partner with the general practice law firm of McGinnis Leslie and serves as the city attorney for the cities of Worthington and South Shore. He received his juris doctor from the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

McCloud serves as a District Court judge for Greenup and Lewis counties. He received his juris doctor from the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law.

Warnock practices with the law firm of Warnock & Warnock and serves as an assistant county attorney for Greenup County. He received his juris doctor from the University of Dayton School of Law. 

The judicial seat became vacant after Judge Robert Conley was elected as a justice for the Supreme Court of Kentucky in November.

Circuit Court

Circuit Court is the court of general jurisdiction that hears civil matters involving more than $5,000, capital offenses and felonies, divorces, adoptions, termination of parental rights, land dispute title cases and contested probate cases. In counties with a Family Court division of Circuit Court, Family Court judges have primary jurisdiction in cases involving family issues, including divorces, adoption, child support, domestic violence and juvenile status offenses.

Judicial Nominating Commission

The Judicial Nominating Commission helps fill judicial vacancies by appointment when a vacancy occurs outside of the election cycle. The Kentucky Constitution established the JNC. Ky. Const. § 118; SCR 6.000, et seq.

Judicial Nominating Process

When a judicial vacancy occurs, the executive secretary of the JNC publishes a notice of vacancy in the judicial circuit or the judicial district affected. Attorneys may recommend someone or nominate themselves. The names of the applicants are not released. Once nominations occur, the individuals interested in the position return a questionnaire to the Office of the Chief Justice. Chief Justice Minton then meets with the Judicial Nominating Commission to choose three nominees. Because the Kentucky Constitution requires that three names be submitted to the governor, in some cases the commission submits an attorney’s name even though the attorney did not apply. A letter naming the three nominees is sent to the governor for review. The governor has 60 days to appoint a replacement and his office makes the announcement.

Makeup of the Judicial Nominating Commission

The commission has seven members. The membership is comprised of the chief justice of Kentucky (who also serves as chair), two lawyers elected by all the lawyers in their circuit/district and four Kentucky citizens who are appointed by the governor. The four citizens appointed by the governor must equally represent the two major political parties, so two must be Democrats and two must be Republicans. It is the responsibility of the commission to submit a list of three names to the governor and the governor must appoint a judge from this list of three.

Administrative Office of the Courts

The Administrative Office of the Courts in Frankfort is the operations arm for the state court system. The AOC supports the activities of nearly 3,400 court system employees and 406 elected justices, judges and circuit court clerks. As the fiscal agent for the state court system, the AOC executes the Judicial Branch budget.

(provided by the Kentucky Court of Justice)