Fayette County

Scorsone might seek judge's post

A judicial vacancy could shuffle the makeup of Fayette County's legislative delegation.

Fayette Chief Circuit Judge Sheila Isaac vacated her Seventh Division seat on June 2 to enter the senior judge program. Speculation in Frankfort is rampant that longtime state Sen. Ernesto Scorsone, D-Lexington, will seek an appointment to Isaac's seat.

Scorsone, for his part, declined to tamp down that speculation Monday.

”I'm saying no comment,“ Scorsone said in response to questions.

A departure from the Senate by Scorsone, who has held his heavily Democratic seat since 1997, could lead to a game of musical chairs among Fayette County legislators.

House Judiciary Chairwoman Kathy Stein, D-Lexington, said she would be ”very interested“ in running for Scorsone's seat if he is appointed to the bench.

”Obviously, there is lots of speculation,“ Stein said. ”I'm very happy as a member of the House. If my senator moves on to something else, I will be very sorry. He's an excellent senator. But I would have to look at that situation if it occurs.“

One other judicial vacancy was created in Fayette County last month when District Judge David Hayse retired.

Hayse and Isaac have joined the senior judge program and will work as part-time judges for the next five years, helping to clear case backlogs.

Isaac called her retirement a personal decision.

”I like the idea of the kind of step-down nature of the program,“ Isaac said. ”You work fewer days but still get to be involved. It is a better way to end than just to walk out the door and you're done. And I just felt it was time.“

A notice of the judicial vacancies will be sent to Fayette County bar members. The Judicial Nominating Commission will then begin accepting nominations for the seats.

The commission, chaired by Chief Justice John D. Minton, will choose three nominees to submit to Gov. Steve Beshear.

The appointee would serve through the November election, when voters will select a judge to fill the remainder of the eight-year terms, which expire in 2014.

Former Chief Justice Joseph Lambert appointed Hayse and Isaac to preside over their respective divisions for June and July.

The filing deadline for the election is Aug. 12.

Judge Thomas L. Clark has been elected chief judge by the nine-member Fayette Circuit Court, Isaac said.

Isaac, 55, was a district judge from 1988 to January 1997, when she was appointed to the circuit court. She is married to retired Court of Appeals Judge Lewis Paisley.

It was not clear Monday what Lexington lawyers were seeking her seat.

Civil rights lawyer Ed Dove, who ran for a circuit court judgeship in 2004, said he is not interested.

”I think that seat is tied up for Ernesto,“ Dove said. ”And he will be a fine judge.“

Hayse, 57, has been on the district court since February 1992. He was a traffic court commissioner in 1990 and 1991 was an assistant county attorney for seven years.

Hayse said he retired so he could join the senior judge program. The cutoff date to join the program is in January 2009.

Stein, who has previously sought an appointment to the district court, said she is ”more than likely not“ interested in Hayse's seat. Stein said she wants to tackle issues such as penal reform in the next General Assembly.