A Fayette circuit judge and a family court judge have announced that they will retire at the end of the year, and another has filed as a candidate for the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
After 13 years on the bench, James Ishmael Jr. has said he will retire. Fayette Family Court Judge Tim Philpot said he also plans to retire Dec. 31.
Meanwhile, Pamela Goodwine has filed as a candidate for the 5th District of the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
Ishmael, 71, formerly a trial attorney, has been a circuit judge since 2004. Former Gov. Ernie Fletcher appointed him to fill the unexpired term of Rebecca Overstreet, who retired. Later that year, Ishmael won election to the seat. Circuit judges serve 8-year-terms.
“I just felt this was the right time,” Ishmael said Monday. “I know I’m going to miss many aspects of it but I wanted to go out sort of on top. I didn’t want to stay too long.”
In a 2016 online survey taken by lawyers with the Fayette County Bar Association, 55 percent of the respondents gave Ishmael an overall rating of “excellent” and 33 percent gave him an overall rating of “good.”
A judicial nominating commission will select and submit the names of three nominees to succeed Ishmael. Gov. Matt Bevin would pick one as Ishmael’s successor.
If a successor has not been selected by the end of December, Ishmael said he is open to staying on as a special judge past that date.
“If they want me to come back and serve until someone is appointed, I would be willing to do that,” Ishmael said.
Goodwine, 57, served as a Fayette district judge from 1999 to 2003, when she became a Fayette circuit judge. She became the chief regional circuit judge for Fayette in January after serving as vice chief regional circuit judge from 2008 to 2016.
Goodwine said Monday she has “achieved just about all I can on the circuit court bench. I’ve tried every type of case I possibly can. I think now is my time.”
The 5th appellate district includes Anderson, Bourbon, Boyle, Clark, Fayette, Franklin, Jessamine, Madison, Mercer, Scott and Woodford counties.
Rob Johnson of Georgetown is the current 5th district Court of Appeals judge. He was appointed to the seat by Gov. Bevin. Johnson has not yet filed for election to the bench.
The candidate filing deadline is Jan. 20.
If more than two candidates file for nonpartisan race, there will be a primary in May to winnow the field to two. The election will be in November 2018.
Nearly all cases heard by the Kentucky Court of Appeals come to it on appeal from a lower court. If a case is tried in circuit court or District Court and the losing parties are not satisfied with the outcome, they may ask for a higher court to review the correctness of the trial court’s decision.
Some cases, such as criminal case acquittals and divorces, may not be appealed. In a divorce case, however, child custody and property rights decisions may be appealed. Cases are not retried in the Court of Appeals. Only the record of the original court trial is reviewed, with attorneys presenting the legal issues to the court for a decision.
Philpot, 66, said he informed Frankfort last week of his plans to retire at the end of the year. A former state senator, he has been a family court judge for 14 years.
“I’ve got a lot of things I want to do with the rest of my life,” Philpot said Monday.
In 2016, Philpot received criticism for telling a religious group that gay marriage is an “oxymoron” like “jumbo shrimp” or “magnificent Chihuahua.”
The state Judicial Conduct Commission reprimanded Philpot in January for making divorcing couples with children take part in hearings to determine if their marriage was broken beyond repair, but not requiring such hearings for people without children.
Philpot told the Herald-Leader at the time he would hold such hearings for all couples.
“I am pleased that the Judicial Conduct Commission has publicly affirmed that hearings to determine whether a marriage is ‘irretrievably broken’ are permitted under Kentucky law for every divorce, not just those with minor children,” Philpot said in January.
Philpot said the criticism he has received in recent years was not a factor in his decision to retire.
A Lexington physician, whose divorce Philpot handled, sued the judge earlier this year over a novel that Philpot wrote. The physician claimed that a character in the novel represents him. The physician said the book libeled and defamed him, placed him in a false light and invaded his privacy. The suit is still pending in Ohio.
Philpot would not comment on the suit Monday but he said he hopes to write more novels in the future. “It’s a hobby for me,” he said.
A judicial nominating commission is accepting questionnaires from qualified people seeking to fill the vacancy opened by Philpot’s departure. The questionnaires are due to the commission by Dec. 5.
The commission will pick three nominees and then Gov. Bevin will select one as Philpot’s successor.