LIBERTY — Efforts to replace late Casey Circuit Judge James G. Weddle, who died two months ago, finally began to take shape Friday when Gov. Steve Beshear appointed four members to the judicial nominating committee that serves the 29th Judicial Circuit.
With Beshear’s appointments, the committee has six of the seven members needed to nominate three lawyers from Casey or Adair counties to be forwarded to the governor, who will then pick one to serve on the bench until voters select a new judge in November to fill the remainder of Weddle’s term.
State law requires judicial nominating committees to consist of the chief justice of the Supreme Court (currently John D. Minton), two attorneys from the circuit chosen by fellow members of the bar and four citizens — two from each county equally representing both political parties — who are not attorneys and do not hold public office.
From Casey County, Beshear chose Republican Tony Price, a retired banker, and Democrat Frank Kinnaird, a retired principal. Real estate broker and auctioneer Murrell W. Burton and construction foreman Barry W. Stotts, both of Columbia, were Beshear’s choices from Adair County.
Those four will join Minton and Columbia attorney Marshall Loy on the nominating committee. The seventh member, another attorney, has not yet been selected. A special election among attorneys in the two counties will be held soon to pick the final member, said Amy Carmen, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Bar Association, which oversees the selection process for attorneys named to judicial nominating committees.
The 29th circuit has been without a full-time circuit judge since Weddle, a Casey County native, passed away on April 12 after serving more than 12 years on the bench. At least three different special judges have been assigned to the counties to fill in until an new judge is chosen.
Casey Circuit Clerk Craig Overstreet said that criminal and judicial dockets continue to move along at a steady pace, but workers at Casey’s judicial center are ready to have someone in place on a more permanent basis.
“Each judge does things differently, they all have their own little quirks, so it takes some getting used to,” Overstreet said. “We need a full-time judge.”
Efforts to form the nominating committee were delayed when one of Beshear’s selections from Casey County, James Wilkerson, died last month, said Parry Barrows, a spokeswoman in the governor’s office. Wilkerson was replaced by Kinnaird.
Kim Neal of the Administrative Office of the Courts said there is no established timetable for selecting a nominating committee or for that committee to forward three candidates to the governor for consideration. Once the governor gets the names, however, he has 60 days to name the new judge, Neal said.
The new judge will only have the job until the Nov. 6 general election, when voters will pick someone to serve out the remainder of Weddle’s term, which runs until 2014.
Judy Vance, an attorney from Columbia who ran unsuccessfully for district judge in 2006, has already filed as a candidate for circuit judge in the non-partisan race.