The Courier Journal, together with the League of Women Voters of Louisville and the Louisville Bar Association identified the following questions to ask Court of Appeals Judicial candidates in District 4, Divisions 1 and 2. Every voter in Jefferson County will vote for a judge in each division. We asked for answers in 200 words or fewer.
Use this election guide for judicial races to help you in the voting booth. Remember, judges are nonpartisan elected officials, which means you cannot rely on party lines when casting your vote.
If you missed the Judicial Forum that also featured our Court of Appeals Candidates you can watch that here. The link takes you directly to the Court of Appeals portion of the video.
What can be done to provide adequate access to legal help for all citizens? What changes need to be made specifically?
District 4, Division 1
Audra Jean Eckerle
“The Courts are public institutions, and public access to the Courts is open, encouraged and vital. We are fortunate in Louisville to have an excellent group of public defenders to represent all citizens charged with criminal offenses free of charge. We also have a dedicated Legal Aid Society to provide free help in some civil cases. The Judges have worked for years with other justice partners to prepare forms for pro se litigants to use when they want to represent themselves. That effort is ongoing. Court costs, filing charges and expungement fees are already waived for people who cannot afford to pay. Regardless of circumstances, everyone deserves justice.”
Tricia Frances Lister
“In many ways this is much more a legislative question than a judicial one – Legal Aid and the Public Defenders need better funding. Lawyers providing pro bono help do some to fill the gap, but the funding needs to be there for the organizations that are meant to provide these services.Using Zoom court and telephonic court for routine court dates also helps reduce the cost to lawyers and litigants, which ultimately makes the process more affordable. The Jefferson County Public Law Library is an excellent resource for people who want to do some of their own research to understand what the laws are. But, honestly, the most important thing is to secure funding for the already existing organizations and to offer the people who work for those organizations respect.”
More:Judges are the referees of our legal system and must remain impartial on the bench
District 4, Division 2
“I have spent most of my career working for a nonprofit organization that represents low income individuals. I have seen through my clients’ experiences the difficulty some people have getting justice when they are wronged, especially if they do not speak English. I suggest the following minimum changes: Remote court appearances-What was once a short term pandemic solution needs to become permanent with technology upgrades to courtrooms to support it. Improved language access-Our language interpreters are overworked and underpaid. They need our help to be sure non- English speaking people can strategize with their attorneys and be heard. Trauma informed staff-People in court are likely going through the worst time in their lives, such as being charged with a crime, being the victim of a crime, going through a divorce, etc. It takes training to deal consistently with people in crisis, so we have to support attorneys and court staff with those tools.”
“A defendant in a criminal case is entitled to an attorney and provided one by the court if they are found indigent. In civil actions no such guarantee exists. However, a litigant who must act as their own attorney due to any number of issues, is at a great disadvantage when the other side is represented by counsel. Louisville is fortunate to have many valuable services available in these situations including those provided by the University of Louisville Ackerson Law Clinic, Legal Aid and countless pro bono hours donated by local attorneys. The legislature should prioritize funding to entities such as Legal Aid and the Ackerson Law Clinic. I would encourage all lawyers to donate their time to disadvantaged litigants.”
Not all opinions are published from the Court of Appeals. Should they be? Why or Why not?
Supreme Court candidates answer this:Rulings affect lives, so why aren’t all published?
District 4, Division 1
Audra Jean Eckerle
“Cases should be published when they address a novel question of law or fact. If there is adequate case law that already serves as binding precedent for a matter, no further publication on the issue is needed. Regardless of publication, Court of Appeals opinions must serve to guide the Trial Courts, attorneys and litigants on the proper methods to handle issues. These opinions should be clear, detailed and supported by the law. They should also be constructive and helpful resources.”
Tricia Frances Lister
“In Kentucky, we have two levels of appeals courts – the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals is the court that hears appeals as a matter of right – it must hear all cases appealed to it, whereas the Supreme Court has discretion about which cases to hear (except a few special cases). The Court of Appeals makes most of the appellate case law in this commonwealth. Many of the cases are unpublished (meaning they are labeled ‘unpublished,’ but are still available to be read), because the case may have reached a good resolution for that particular set of facts, but is determined that it should not be used as precedent for other cases. As an appellate attorney, I have frequently found this frustrating because there are areas where the published case law is fairly scant and the unpublished cases would be very useful. I believe the Court of Appeals should provide more guidance to litigants by publishing more of their cases. Not every case raises an important issue or in teresting fact pattern, but many of them do. Those cases should be available and viable for appellate practitioners.”
District 4, Division 2
“Lawyers win cases by referencing case law and arguing that their case is most similar to (or very different from) a case already decided, so the court should rule in their favor. Because our entire legal system is based upon the application of case law but no two cases are exactly alike, practitioners like myself want to have plenty of decisions to choose from with different facts and legal issues presented. On the other hand, adding to “published” case law can actually make things harder for lawyers and courts because multiple cases articulating the same legal principle can create confusion. So there must be an appropriate balance. Some people believe that appellate courts are issuing too many unpublished opinions as a kind of shortcut. I have heard from multiple lawyers that an appellate panel passed on a difficult question in their case by issuing an unpublished opinion. That is a problem. Difficult questions will always present themselves again, and courts should try to answer the m when they arise. As a state legislator, it has been my job to make difficult decisions, even when it required standing up to power, money and influence. I will do the same as a judge.”
“Published opinions are important and can provide much needed legal authority for attorneys and their clients. In deciding whether or not to publish an opinion, one must take into consideration whether or not the issue addressed in the case is important to the bench or bar. Does the opinion provide instruction to lawyers or judges regarding an issue? Is it a case of first impression, one that has facts which have never been addressed by the Court? Is the issue of concern to the public or has the issue been in the media ? If the issue at hand is worthy of discussion by the public, lawyers or judges, and most are, then the case should be published.”
Read more about Jefferson County Judicial Candidates:
District Court Candidates
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Kentucky Supreme Court Candidates
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