Editorials

Fayette judge race takes a nasty turn; Goodman is the best choice to rise above it

Fayette County District Court Judge Julie Muth Goodman
Fayette County District Court Judge Julie Muth Goodman

The Herald-Leader had originally decided not to make an endorsement in the Fayette Circuit Judge race between Julie Goodman and John Reynolds because they both seemed to be amply qualified and capable with small differences that could be judged only by the lawyers who appear in their courts.

But Reynolds, who apparently was feeling desperate (Goodman received 55 percent of the vote in the May primary, compared to 21 for Reynolds) has injected vitriol and falsehoods into what’s supposed to be a technically non-partisan race. He sent out a mailer that cites a 2016 lawyers poll, but falsely interprets Goodman to have been judged “worst.” In fact, according to a Herald-Leader story, 21 percent of about 430 lawyers polled gave her a “poor” ranking, three other judges were rated lower..

The mailer also called her “weak on DUI law” because she said legislative changes to drunk driving laws could not be applied retroactively to when the bill was signed into law. This move upset some prosecutors but pleased defense lawyers, and had no bearing on actual DUI laws.

Reynolds’ supporters have been grouping his candidacy with Republican candidates, perhaps because he was appointed to an empty circuit court judge’s seat by Gov. Matt Bevin. This is legal because of a 2016 decision by a federal judge in Northern Kentucky who ruled that Kentucky could make judges races non-partisan but could not restrict the First Amendment rights of the judges themselves to express political opinions in races. Seeing Reynolds signs grouped with other Republican candidates in numerous social media posts is an unfortunate direction for the partisanship in judge’s races. Will lawyers now feel judged for their political affiliation when they show up in court?

Goodman, who has 11 years experience as a district judge who deeply understands the problems that plague Fayette County, particularly the ravages of the opioid crisis that send so many people in front of her. She has stayed above the fray in this increasingly ugly race. Those are all good reasons for her to earn your vote.

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