FRANKFORT — For the first time in Kentucky history, three women will sit on the state's highest court.
Gov. Steve Beshear tapped state Court of Appeals Judge Michelle Keller on Wednesday to replace retiring state Supreme Court Justice Wil Schroder. Keller will serve the remaining year of Schroder's term but will have to run for re-election in November 2014.
The appointment is effective immediately.
Schroder said in January that he was stepping down to focus on his health after being diagnosed with brain cancer.
"I have the deepest respect and fondness for Justice Wil Schroder. Therefore, this is a bittersweet moment for me," Keller said in a written statement Wednesday.
"I am very grateful to Gov. Beshear and I am humbled by his confidence, as well as the confidence and support of so many people in my district and beyond. I will work hard to provide justice to my fellow Kentuckians and continue the fine legacy of Justice Schroder."
The Fort Mitchell native has been on the state Court of Appeals since 2006. Before being elected to the appellate court, Keller practiced law for 17 years, including stints as an assistant county prosecutor and as a criminal defense attorney. Keller was a registered nurse before becoming a lawyer.
A graduate of Northern Kentucky University's Salmon P. Chase College of Law, Keller also has been chairwoman of the Kentucky Personnel Board, which oversees employment disputes in state government.
She was one of three potential replacements for Schroder picked by a bipartisan judicial nominating commission last month. Other nominees were Joseph E. Conley Jr. of Villa Hills and Allison Emerson Jones of Prospect.
Beshear must now appoint a replacement for Keller on the state Court of Appeals. Another judicial nominating commission must meet to pick three potential replacements for her.
The other two women on the state Supreme Court are justices Lisabeth Hughes Abramson and Mary Noble.
Keller will represent the 6th Supreme Court District. The counties in that district are Bath, Boone, Bracken, Campbell, Carroll, Fleming, Gallatin, Grant, Harrison, Henry, Kenton, Lewis, Mason, Nicholas, Oldham, Owen, Pendleton, Robertson, Shelby, Spencer and Trimble.