Libby G. Messer for Fayette family court

Judge Libby Messer
Judge Libby Messer

Voters cannot go wrong in the Nov. 6 race for family court judge in Fayette County.

Either candidate — Eileen M. O’Brien or Libby G. Messer — would preside competently and compassionately over a court that probably touches more lives, more deeply than any other.

We give the edge to Messer because she’s done a commendable job in the eight months since Gov. Matt Bevin appointed her to fill the unexpired term of Tim Philpot, who retired after 14 years on the bench.

Messer’s background handling child abuse and neglect and juvenile crime cases as a prosecutor in the county attorney’s office gives her unusual insight not just into the cases that come before her, but also into the chronic crises besetting Kentucky’s children, problems deepened by the opioid epidemic.

Messer has the knowledge and potential to grow into a leadership role on larger policy questions affecting children and families, from foster care to human trafficking.

Messer had no experience handling divorces and the related complications, which created a learning curve that she’s still negotiating but shows every sign of mastering. She’s already earning high marks for demeanor and temperament, based on our conversations with observers in her courtroom.

O’Brien could hit the ground running with no learning curve to surmount. She has long experience as an attorney in every aspect of family law and an unflappable temperament. She also has useful experience thanks to her generous involvement in organizations that help women and families, including serving as board president of Chrysalis House, a substance-abuse treatment center for women, and the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning.

The only bad thing about this race is that one of them has to lose.

The unendorsed candidate may submit a 250-response by noon Tuesday.