LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Annette Karem has served as a judge for 16 years, but she got the lowest marks of any of the three candidates in the lone contested primary race for the Kentucky Court of Appeals in Jefferson County.
About 73% of lawyers in a Louisville Bar Association poll gave qualified or highly qualified ratings to state Rep. McKenzie Cantrell and about 71% to Stan Whetzel, a lawyer in private practice and a former social worker. That compared with 62% for Karem, a district judge since 2006.
Karem also had the highest percentage of unqualified marks of the three candidates.
Earlier this year, Karem, the chief district judge, was forced to withdraw a proposal that would have allowed conferencing of criminal cases without a judge present. Critics said the plan — designed to reduce a backlog of cases — was illegal and unfair.
The Bar Association poll, which 533 lawyers completed, covers nine judicial races in which there are three or more candidates. As many as 440 participants said they did not know enough about some of the candidates to rate them.
Races matching two candidates — including a Court of Appeals contest between Circuit Judge Audra Eckerle and Tricia Lister — will be decided in the general election.
In Circuit Court Division 5, Judge Mary Shaw, the only incumbent circuit judge to be challenged, was found qualified or highly qualified by 92% of the attorneys who rated her. That compared with 41% for Christine Miller, who says she has a decade of litigation experience, and 53% for Tracy Evette Davis, who has practiced statewide for eight years.
In Division 7, 86% of lawyers who rated criminal defense veteran Theodore “Ted” Shouse found him qualified or highly qualified, compared with 72% for Critt Cunningham and 33% for Melissa Logan Bellows.
Cunningham is deputy division chief of the Violent Crime Unit in the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, while Bellows has practiced civil and criminal law for 17 years. Most lawyers said they didn’t know her.
In Division 9, which has six candidates, 87% of lawyers who rated Sarah Clay, a former public defender who has practiced for nearly 10 years, found her qualified or highly qualified, compared with 81% for veteran criminal defense lawyer F. Todd Lewis.
Tim Buckley was rated qualified or highly qualified by 61%; Nichole T. Compton by 27%; Blaine Grant by 61%; and Alan L. Lani by 25%. Buckley has practiced for 33 years; Compton, who has an MBA as well as a law degree, has been a guardian-ad-litem; Grant is a former prosecutor with 25 years of experience; Lani practices personal injury and social security law.
In Division 10, 84% percent of lawyers who rated her found Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Dorislee Gilbert qualified or highly qualified, compared with 74% for Patricia “Tish” Morris and 48% for Zachary “Zach” McKee. Morris has practiced for about 20 years, while McKee is a former staff attorney for two judges and is a guardian-ad-litem.
Nine candidates are competing in three primary contests for district court.
In Division 4, 90% of the lawyers who rated Yvette De La Guardia, a former public defender, said she is qualified or highly qualified, compared with 58% for Lora Chisholm Holman and 77% for Jennifer Murzyn Yancey. Holman says she’s practiced for 20 years while Yancey is an assistant county attorney and former assistant commonwealth’s attorney.
In Division 7, 71% of attorneys who rated Jacob E. Elder, a former assistant county attorney whose firm defends drunken driving cases, found him qualified or highly qualified, compared with 70% for Shannon Renee Fauver and 43% for Megan McDonald. Fauver is a sole practitioner who focuses on Social Security disability and bankruptcy cases, while McDonald says she has appeared in district courts statewide and worked as a mediator.
In Division 8, 90% of lawyers who rated her said Lindsay Volk Beets, an assistant county attorney who prosecutes criminal cases, is qualified or highly qualified, compared with 83% for Karen Faulkner and 45% for Jessica Stone.
Faulkner, a former public defender is a guardian-ad-litem and former victim advocate for the Center for Women and Families, while Stone has practiced family law.