Candidate: Family Court;
Circuit 16; Division 5
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I am seeking to become Kenton County Family Court Judge because I care about the children and families in our community. I believe I am the right candidate for this position because of my 16+ years of experience practicing in our local family courts. I started my legal career as a public defender assigned primarily to the juvenile docket defending children charged with public and status offenses. In 2004, I moved to the Kenton County Attorney’s Office where I operated as the Chief Juvenile Prosecutor. I prosecuted juveniles charged with public and status offenses, and I also represented the Commonwealth of Kentucky in dependency, neglect, and abuse cases.
In 2007, I was awarded the Juvenile Justice Award by the Kentucky County Attorney’s Association. That same year I opened my private law practice in Covington, Kentucky and focused my practice on working for families. As a family law attorney, I have worn every hat and have seen the issues from all sides. I have represented individuals in matters involving divorce, custody, paternity, adoptions, domestic violence, and termination of parental rights. Further, I have represented abused and neglected children and indigent parents. I am also regularly appointed by Northern Kentucky’s Family Court Judges or chosen by attorneys to represent children in high conflict divorce and custody cases. In addition, I am the only candidate that is endorsed by Northern Kentucky Right to Life and the AFL-CIO.
In my opinion, the Family Court Judge plays an essential role in our judicial system. No cases entering Kentucky’s court system are more important than those involving families and children. The Family Court is often the only avenue available to desperate families ravaged by issues such as substance abuse and poverty to address these problems and keep their families together. At stake in our Family Court is the health and safety of the children in our community, as well as the well-being and stability of our community’s families. I embrace the complex situations that routinely appear in family court. Presiding over finding the safest environment to place a neglected child, or over litigants involved in a highly contested divorce are no small tasks. This requires someone who is well versed in the law on the subject, familiar with the practical obstacles facing the parties, and dedicated to the fair administration of the law.
Throughout my legal career I have sought to be honest and fair with the public, fellow members of the legal community, and the judiciary. I will bring these qualities and my vast experience in our Family Court to the bench as Kenton Family Court Judge. I believe that as Kenton County Family Court Judge I can help to make our community a safer place for children and their families and I look forward to the opportunity to serve them.
1. In your career, have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and wished you had handled a case or legal issue differently? Describe the situation and any lessons you learned from the experience.
The opioid crisis has claimed the lives of several of my clients. Asking myself what else I could have done to save those lives has certainly kept me awake. It reminds me how important Family Court is to our legal system and our community. One of the primary functions of our Family Court is protecting the children of parents who are addicts, while at the same time doing what it can to get those parents help to overcome their addiction. Though I have lost clients to this horrible disease, I am also aware of how many people we have helped through substance abuse treatment and other services, as well as how many children we have kept safe in these situations.
2. Give an example of a circumstance where you faced an ethical dilemma or problem and explain how you solved it.
Attorneys in Family Court run into a recurring ethical dilemma. I have of course faced it as well. I regularly represent parents accused of neglecting or abusing their children. It is common to represent a parent who comes before the court because of a long history of drug abuse. Frequently the court has already removed a child from their custody. As that parent’s lawyer, I am bound to zealously advocate for the parent in an attempt to regain custody of the child, even when the facts of the case don’t support the parent’s position or the best interests of the child. As an advocate for the parent in that situation, I am charged with presenting evidence that best supports the parent’s legal position.
3. 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?
A judge must be fair to all parties that come before the court. A judge needs to have an even and professional disposition. A judge should be efficient in the administration of the court. In my sixteen year legal career I have had the pleasure of appearing in front of some incredible judges that possess all these attributes. I have argued cases in front of these judges as prosecutor, guardian, and private counsel. It is the judges that possess these qualities that I believe make the most just decisions. As a judge I intend to emulate these qualities.
4. As a potential or sitting judge, what do you consider to be your greatest strengths? Weaknesses?
I am fair, empathetic, decisive and open minded. I will follow the law and apply it without bias. I have extensive experience in the family court system, including as advocate for individual litigants, as prosecutor, and as guardian. I take the duty of upholding justice very seriously. I am optimistic that if given a chance and the proper support, people can turn their lives around. While many may view this optimism as a weakness, I believe that people are inherently good.
5. What or who are the major influences in your life and why?
The major influences in my life are my parents. I was born into a military family. My father taught me that it is best to serve people and do what I can to protect those who are unable to protect themselves. My mother showed me how important it is to care about all people no matter their background and to have empathy for those facing obstacles. Both of my parents impressed upon me the importance of family, faith and country. They showed me that you don’t have to be wealthy to be happy. Most importantly, they both taught me that if you work hard, do what it right, face your fears and continue to do your best, your life will be fulfilling.
6. 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?
I have not witnessed what I would consider a true “injustice” inside or outside of the courtroom in my practice. Our legal system is adversarial in nature. In such a system there will inevitably be a party that is not happy with an outcome of a case that is not decided in their favor. There have been times where I was not happy or satisfied with a decision I received in case from a judge, but I did not think that an injustice occurred. If faced with a true injustice as a judge, I feel confident I would handle the situation by relying on the law and applying it fairly.
7. Who are your judicial role models and why?
Antonin Scalia: Justice Scalia was dedicated to the intellectual aspects of the law. He advocated for textualism and originalism in statutory and constitutional interpretation. While being a staunch conservative he revealed through many of his opinions and interviews that the law should be evenly applied to everyone.
John Marshall: Justice Marshall played a critical role in shaping constitutional law. His diligent work elevated the judicial system, making it an independent entity and balancing out the third branch of the federal government.
8. Describe a circumstance where you took a difficult or controversial position and how you handled it.
I was appointed to represent an undocumented father in a dependency, neglect and abuse case, in which the Commonwealth and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services believed it would be improper for this father to obtain custody of his child. After researching the issue, I found case law that made it very clear that being undocumented is not grounds to deny custody of a child to a parent. Ultimately, I was able to help this father obtain custody of his child.
9. How would you describe your general judicial philosophy?
My general judicial philosophy is simple. I believe that each person, regardless of race, gender, religion, political belief, education or financial status should be given the opportunity to receive the fair and unbiased administration of justice.
10. What are some of the most significant challenges facing Kentucky's judicial system and how do you propose to address them?
There are significant challenges facing the Kentucky judicial system. However, the one that I witness the most is overburdened court dockets. The judicial system has a responsibility to ensure due process for the litigants that come before it, while also administering justice in a timely and efficient manner. In my practice, I evaluate every case to see if it is suitable for alternative dispute resolution, such as out of court mediation. I believe most cases in Family Court can be resolved through this process, saving the litigants (and the court system) time and money. As judge, I plan on exploring with the parties the possibility of out of court resolution in an attempt to reserve the court’s time for those issues that cannot be resolved through collaborative means.