Candidate: Circuit Family Court; Circuit 28, Division 4
Counties: Rockcastle, Pulaski, and Lincoln
Facebook: Melinda Gillum Dalton for Family Court Judge
I want to be Family Court Judge because family law has been my longtime passion. I have been involved in family law since long before I graduated law school. Growing up, I worked in my father’s law office – mowing grass and washing windows, then assisting the staff and learning to do research, and finally summarizing depositions and drafting trial memorandums.
I have always been drawn to family law because it involves real families, real people with real problems; people just like me. And because law involves families, no two cases are ever exactly the same – there is no one answer to fit everything. Family law requires empathy, patience, creativity and compassion in addition to a knowledge of the law and if elected Family Court Judge, I will bring these characteristics to the bench.
Since I began my practice, almost 20 years ago, I have tailored my efforts to the area of Family Law, practicing exclusively in Family Court. My practice consists of dependency, abuse and neglect cases, truancy cases, divorces and domestic violence cases and I represent all types of persons in theses cases; parents, children, wives, husbands, victims and perpetrators, in all three counties served by our Family Court; Lincoln, Pulaski and Rockcastle.
I want to be Family Court Judge because Family Law is my longtime passion. I have devoted my career to helping families of Lincoln, Pulaski and Rockcastle counties as a zealous advocate. I now want to take that experience and continue serving our families as Family Court Judge.
1. Give an example of a circumstance where you faced an ethical dilemma or problem and explain how you solved it.
My father, Robert E. Gillum, was an army JAG officer, an attorney, and a Circuit Judge. My mother was a public-school teacher. I learned from both of them that some things are right and some this are wrong. My mama used to tell me that if I wouldn’t do something with her standing right there, then I shouldn’t do it. I continually use this test and have taught it to my children, and it has served me well. Because of this, coupled with the wise mentors I have had the pleasure of having throughout my career, I have not faced many ethical dilemmas.
2. What do you believe are the most important qualities of a judge, and how has your professional background and life experience helped you develop those qualities?
The most important quality of a judge is Wisdom – the ability to use experience, insight, and judgment to parcel facts and make a just decision. Handling family Law cases exclusively for 20 years has granted me wisdom in respecting all opinions, allowing all parties to have a voice in the proceedings, and to make a decision with the best interest of the child at the center.
3. As a potential judge, what do you consider to be your greatest strengths? Weaknesses?
My greatest strength is my faith in Jesus Christ and all of his blessings. My decision to marry, to have children, and to run for this office were all made prayerfully.
My greatest weakness is that I am human – like us all. I am not perfect. However, I can promise that I will work every day to overcome that weakness.
4. What or who are the major influences in your life and why?
The 3 major influences in my life have been my parents (and their untimely passing); my children, and my faith. My parents taught me to become the wife, mother, lawyer, parent, and friend that I am. Losing them both to cancer at an early age taught me to cherish the time I have on this planet. My children teach me daily the importance of patience, kindness, and love. You learn to love and be loved unconditionally by being a parent. Finally, my faith has brought me comfort, wisdom, and guidance in all stages of life.
5. Have you witnessed any particular injustices inside or outside the courtroom and how did you respond to those circumstances? How will you respond to similar circumstances as a judge?
The greatest injustice I see is the delay that families endure based upon the crushing number of cases in Family court. I intend to remedy that delay once elected.
6. Who are your judicial role models and why?
My father is my judicial role model. He was the first one at the office (or courthouse) every day. He worked tirelessly for his clients and for the citizens (once elected). He worked, literally, until the day he died. I also admire my first boss – former Chief Justice Joe Lambert – who brought civility to the Court system.
7. Describe a circumstance where you took a difficult or controversial position and how you handled it.
One of my first cases, I was appointed for an elderly lady who was refusing to eat. The doctor had moved the court to declare her incompetent and allow him to insert a feeding tube and prolong her life. I was appointed as her attorney. After meeting with her, it was clear that she was competent but that she was ready to die. I argued her competency, knowing that my victory would ensure her death. The doctor and County Attorney were both very perplexed by my position, arguing that without the feeding tube, my client would surely die within a matter of days. And while they were correct on that point, I argued that simply not agreeing with one’s doctor as to a medical decision which may or may not be detrimental to one’s overall health, does not render a person incompetent.
I ultimately prevailed and after my client let the courthouse, I sat and cried knowing that I had helped my client achieve her desire, although I do not know if my personal decision would have been the same.
8. How would you describe your general judicial philosophy?
God gave us 2 ears, 2 eyes and 1 mouth for a reason. Watch carefully, listen carefully but speak deliberately and carefully.
9. What are some of the most significant challenges facing Kentucky's judicial system and how do you propose to address them?
The greatest challenge facing Kentucky’s Judicial System and Kentucky in general, is the breakdown of the family. Single parent homes, grandparents raising their grandchildren, are leaving our children without a strong sense of balance and security. Our foster care system is horribly overcrowded, with children often experiencing 2-3 moves before finding any stability. If elected, my focus will be on helping families become independent and self sufficient through utilizing our many community resources to provide role models and achieve stability.