The Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr., today announced nominees to fill upcoming vacancies in Jefferson Family Court and District Court. Jefferson County is the 30th Judicial Circuit/District and the vacancies are in the circuit’s 10th Division-Family Court and the district’s 9th Division.
Family Court Judgeship
The three nominees for the circuit judgeship are attorneys Ellie Garcia Kerstetter of Audubon Park, Shelley Montgomery Santry of Louisville and Derwin Lamont Webb of Louisville.
Kerstetter has her own law practice. Prior to becoming an attorney, she gained more than 23 years of experience in business, management and real estate. She received her juris doctor from the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law.
Santry is an associate law professor and clinical director at the Ackerson Law Clinic at the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. She is also a guardian ad litem in Jefferson County. She previously served as an assistant prosecutor for the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office. She received her juris doctor from the University of New Hampshire School of Law.
Webb has his own law practice. He also serves as a court-appointed attorney in Jefferson Family Court and as a part-time public defender in Indiana. He received his juris doctor from the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law.
The Family Court judicial seat will become vacant when Judge Paula F. Sherlock retires Sept. 17.
District Court Judgeship
The three nominees for the district judgeship are attorneys Daniel Michael Alvarez, Andre Leon Bergeron and Tanisha Ann Hickerson, all of Louisville.
Alvarez has his own law practice and previously served as a Jefferson County public defender. He received his juris doctor from the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law.
Bergeron is an assistant prosecutor for the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office and is the office’s division chief, overseeing felony and misdemeanor cases. He received his juris doctor from the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law.
Hickerson is a partner in the law firm of Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer. She received her juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law.
The District Court judicial seat will become vacant when Judge David L. Holton II retires Sept. 30.
Family Court is a division of Circuit Court and has primary jurisdiction in cases involving family issues, including divorces, adoption, child support, domestic violence and juvenile status offenses.
District Court judges handle juvenile matters, city and county ordinances, misdemeanors, violations, traffic offenses, probate of wills, arraignments, felony probable cause hearings, small claims involving $2,500 or less, civil cases involving $5,000 or less, voluntary and involuntary mental commitments and cases relating to domestic violence and abuse.
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 404 elected justices, judges and circuit court clerks. As the fiscal agent for the state court system, the AOC executes the Judicial Branch budget.