Judicial seat in play

When it comes to the lawyers who stand before her, District Court Judge Maria Ransdell says she definitely "meddles in their business," asking questions of clients and the reasons behind plea agreements and other legal actions.

And while that may take extra time, she considers it simply part of a good judge's responsibility.

Her two challengers in the race, however, say Ransdell's temperament and court management often undermine attorneys in front of clients and unnecessarily lengthen the court day for all involved.

After 13 years on the bench, Ransdell deserves a chance to defend her seat in the November election. She has been devoted to the pursuit of justice for decades in this community, serving as a public defender, a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney before Gov. Paul Patton appointed her to the bench in 1997.

She works with drug court and other alternative sentencing programs and with efforts to divert youth from crime.

This is the first time she has been challenged for re-election to the 22nd District, Division 3 seat. And there are many indications that she is facing a strong undercurrent of opposition that she still could have time to address.

Both of her opponents in the non-partisan contest seem capable.

The stronger challenger is Kim Wilkie, who has been in private practice for more than 25 years doing insurance defense work and criminal defense, primarily in circuit court. Before that, he worked as a public defender and has recently begun taking some public-defender cases in district court.

Challenger Joe Rugg was an assistant Fayette County attorney and has been in private practice for more than three years. He has spent a lot of time in district court and has some ideas about how to make it operate smoother.

However, Wilkie's experience gives him the edge.

The candidate not endorsed in the race may submit a response of no more than 250 words by noon Thursday.