Former Fayette District Judge Kevin M. Horne, described by friends as a fair and no-nonsense judge, a talented trial lawyer and a man with a good sense of humor, died Monday at St. Joseph Hospital. He was 64.
Judge Horne, a Lexington native, began his tenure in Fayette District Court in 1989 when he was selected to fill the unexpired term of Michael Roney, who had taken a job in the state attorney general's office. Later that year, Judge Horne was appointed to fill the unexpired term of John Adams, who was moving from district court to become a Fayette Circuit Court judge. Judge Horne ran for district judge after filling that unexpired term and remained on the bench until 2004, serving for several years as chief district court judge. He became a senior status judge after that, traveling to various Kentucky counties to hear cases.
From 1982 to 1985, Judge Horne was an assistant Fayette commonwealth's attorney. From 1986 to 1987, he was an assistant Fayette County attorney, heading that office's criminal division. He also had been affiliated with the Lexington law firm Fowler, Measle & Bell.
"His death has saddened an entire legal community of attorneys, judges and police officers," said Fayette County Attorney Larry Roberts, a close friend of Judge Horne since childhood, who had worked with him in the Fayette commonwealth's attorney's office and at Fowler, Measle & Bell.
"I was in children's theater with him when we were in junior high school," he said.
Years later, during a trip together to New York City to work on a legal case, Roberts said, he and Judge Horne went to the FAO Schwarz toy store, where they bought masks — a duck mask for Judge Horne and a gorilla mask for Roberts. On the plane back home, Judge Horne, wearing his duck mask, told a flight attendant: "We are out of our element here, and we want a drink," Roberts said.
"The captain came out to see if we were capable of handling ourselves as wild animals in a plane. The whole plane got drinks," Roberts said. "He was a cut-up; he loved to have fun with practical jokes.
"I've been involved with him in probably 100 trials. He was an outstanding prosecutor. ... We fished in the ocean together; we camped together."
"Everybody liked Kevin," said former Kentucky Supreme Court justice and Fayette Circuit Court judge James E. Keller. As a senior status judge, Judge Horne would take his camper to state parks in the areas where he was hearing cases, Keller said. "He loved to go to state parks and camp."
Lexington attorney Gatewood Galbraith recalled spending just over an hour in jail in 1991 after Judge Horne ordered an arrest warrant for Galbraith, who had failed to show up for a hearing in district court.
"Yes, he did put me in jail once," said Galbraith, who was running for governor at the time. "Another time, he asked me for my autograph after a trial because my picture was on the front page of USA Today."
Judge Horne, the son of Valda Hildebrand Horne and the late Morton Ray Horne, was a Vietnam era veteran of the Navy and a 1980 graduate of the University of Louisville law school.
In addition to his mother, he is survived by his wife, Susan Smith Horne, and stepsons Lee Smith Hudson and William Porter Hudson.
A gathering of family and friends will be 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Clark Legacy Center in Brannon Crossing. Burial will be at 10 a.m. Friday in Camp Nelson National Cemetery. Memorial gifts are suggested to the American Legion Man o' War Post No. 8 Honor Guard or the charity of one's choice.