Kentucky Politics

Voters in Jefferson County confronted a lengthy ballot this year. State and local judicial races were part of what made the list of races so robust.

The majority of current Louisville judges who ran for election this year will be staying with the court system – either winning as incumbents or getting promoted.

Four judges will be moving to a higher court when they take office in January. 

The only incumbent judge to lose their election was Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Mary Shaw.

Here’s a look at the rest of the winners:

Supreme Court District 4: Angela McCormick Bisig defeats Jason Bowman

Bisig, currently a Jefferson Circuit Court judge, defeated family law attorney Jason Bowman in the race to replace Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Hughes, who is retiring.

Bisig has been a circuit judge since 2013 and previously worked as a district judge. During her time as a lawyer, she worked as a prosecutor and practiced civil law. Bisig was endorsed by the Committee for Fairness and Individual Rights, Better Schools Kentucky, Citizens for Better Judges, Kentucky State AFL-CIO, the Greater Louisville Central Labor Council and the Jefferson County Republican Party.

The term for this position lasts eight years.

Supreme Court District 6: Michelle Keller defeats Joe Fischer

Incumbent Supreme Court Justice Michelle Keller fended off a challenge from Republican Rep. Joseph Fischer of Fort Thomas for another eight-year term.

The district includes 21 counties stretching from Oldham County to Covington.

The race was hotly contested, as the Kentucky Supreme Court is poised to hear arguments over the state’s near-total ban on abortion. Fischer penned Kentucky’s so-called “trigger law” banning abortion in most cases and the failed proposal to add anti-abortion language to the state constitution.

A former prosecutor and appellate judge, Keller was appointed to the northern Kentucky Supreme Court district in 2013 by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

Court of Appeals Division 1: Audra Jean Eckerle defeats Tricia Frances Lister

Eckerle has been a Jefferson Circuit court judge since 2007 and previously worked as a district court judge. According to a July 2020 Courier-Journal story, defense attorney Rob Eggert claimed Eckerle “electronically ‘muzzled’ him during a remotely conducted hearing by repeatedly muting him while she let the prosecutor attend in person.

Lister is a private practice attorney focused on complex motions and appeals in criminal law. She’s a past president of the Women Lawyers Association of Jefferson County.

Court of Appeals Division 2: Annette Karem defeats McKenzie Cantrell

Karem has been a district court judge in Jefferson County since 2007. She’s faced criticism from attorneys and fellow judges for controversial ideas, including a proposal that would have allowed authorities to hold some criminal case hearings without a judge present, according to a WDRB story.

Cantrell is a Democratic state representative who was endorsed by several labor unions.

Circuit Court Judge

4th Division: Julie Kaelin defeats Ebert Haegele

Kaelin has been a district judge since 2018. During her time in the position, she’s called for bail and search warrant reform. Kaelin was endorsed by several groups including the Greater Louisville Central Labor Council, Better Schools Kentucky and Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice.

Haegele currently works as the chief of narcotics for the Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office

5th Division…Tracy Evette Davis defeats Mary Shaw

Davis is a private attorney who has handled family law, civil law, felony and misdemeanor cases. The Courier Journal recently reported that she has appeared as a defendant in court at least three times. She faced charges of reckless driving and felony charges of “making a false statement to receive benefits” and both those charges were ultimately dismissed.

Davis’ challenge was a rare challenge of a sitting circuit court judge. In March 2020, Shaw signed the no-knock warrant that allowed Louisville Metro Police Department officers to enter Taylor’s home. Officers shot and killed Taylor during the raid, which led to widespread protests in the city and across the country.

7th Division…Melissa Logan Bellows defeats Ted Shouse

Louisville-native Bellows clerked for a former Oldham County circuit court judge and practiced insurance law for several years. She was also general counsel at a Louisville law firm that closed in 2021. She was endorsed by the Jefferson County Republican Party and the Jefferson County FOP Presidents Council

Shouse has represented dozens of people who were arrested for protesting the police killing of Breonna Taylor in 2020. He’s publicly pushed for judges to lead search warrant reform. He was endorsed by several labor unions.

9th Division…Sarah Clay defeats Nichole T. Compton

Clay is a former public defender who was endorsed by several labor and racial justice groups like the Committee for Fairness and Individual Rights, Citizens for Better Judges, Better Schools Kentucky and Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice.

Compton ran unsuccessfully for a Jefferson County district judge seat in 2014. Also, she was a host on “Deadbeat: Kentuckiana Child Support Court,” a local reality show that started airing in 2014.

10th Division…Patricia “Tish” Morris defeats Dorslee Gilbert.

Morris currently works as a litigation attorney at Winton & Hiestand Law Group, a large personal injury firm. Her father was Geoffrey Morris, the late Jefferson County circuit judge and prosecutor. She was endorsed by several labor groups.

Gilbert worked as a felony prosecutor for 15 years in the Jefferson County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. She is an outspoken advocate for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence and was endorsed by Citizens for Better Judges.

District Court

1st Division…Anthony Jones defeats Emily Korfhage Monarch

Jones is an assistant county attorney and former public defender. He helped implement an adult restorative justice initiative, which is a more holistic response to crime, according to his campaign website. He is endorsed by the Citizens for Better Judges.

Monarch is a private attorney at her own firm, Elder Law Solutions PLLC. Her practice focuses on elder rights and life care planning.

3rd Division…Kristina Garvey defeats Kelly Ann Bowles

Garvey won reelection. She previously worked as a prosecutor in the Jefferson County Attorney’s general criminal division and domestic violence unit. She was endorsed by several labor groups.

Bowles is a teacher and librarian at Jefferson County Public Schools. She is also an attorney who has worked on medical malpractice, personal injury and employment discrimination cases – and a vocal advocate for social justice and bail reform who describes herself as a “Proud member of the LGTBQ+ community.” 

4th Division…Yvette De La Guardia defeats Lora Chisholm Holman

De La Guardia has worked as a public defender in Jefferson County for seven years, focusing on defending the rights of children in juvenile and family court. She previously worked as an education specialist for the Upward Bound Program.

Holman is a lawyer who previously worked as the director of accounts receivable and collection for ResCare, a national community-based healthcare provider that is headquartered in Louisville. A Buzzfeed News investigation highlighted allegations of disabled patients being abused and neglected at many of the company owned group homes.

6th Division…Lisa Langford defeats Justin Brown

Langford was first elected to district court in 2018. She previously worked as an Assistant Jefferson County Attorney. She was endorsed by Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice (LSURJ), several labor groups and Louisville’s police union.

Justin Brown works for a private law practice where he specializes in criminal defense, personal injury and family law. He’s a former Louisville public defender.

7th Division…Megan McDonald defeats Shannon Renee Fauver

Megan McDonald is a partner at Nelson, McDonald and Shrewsbury. She was endorsed by the Political Women’s Council and several labor groups.

Fauver is an attorney at Fauver Law Practice, PLLC. She was part of a team representing plaintiffs in Bourke vs. Beshear, which became part of the 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriages.

8th Division…Karen Faulkner defeats Jessica Stone

Faulkner previously worked for the Jefferson Commonwealth Attorney’s office and at the Center for Women and Families as a victim’s advocate. She was a public defender for six years before opening a private practice. She ran unsuccessfully for a district judge position in 2018. She was endorsed by several labor unions and Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice.

Stone has been a prosecutor in the Jefferson County Attorney’s office criminal division since 2017.

9th Division…Tanisha Ann Hickerson defeats Kaitlin Smith Dean

Hickerson has been a district court judge since 2018. She is the chair of the Criminal Justice Commission for Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government and a member of the Opportunity Network, which helps incarcerated people transition from jail. She was endorsed by Greater Louisville Central Labor Council and Citizens for Better Judges.

Dean is a former public defender and now owns her own private practice where she handles family, civil and criminal cases.

10th Division…Sara Michael Nicholson defeats R. Christian Garrison

Nicholson was first elected to the district bench in 2016. Her father is David Nicholson, the current Jefferson Circuit Court Clerk and former Democratic candidate for mayor. She was endorsed by local labor organizations, but her race is one of just three that didn’t garner any endorsement from local attorney group Citizens for Better Judges.

Garrison works for local law firm Rice Gumm. He is a former public defender and prosecutor.

15th Division…Mary Jude Wolford defeats Claudette Patton

Wolford is a private practice attorney and previously worked as a prosecutor focused on allegations of child abuse and neglect. She is also a former assistant United States attorney for the Western District of New York with stints as a town attorney in Lancaster, New York.

Patton is an attorney in private practice with about 30 years of criminal and civil litigation experience. She previously worked in the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office prosecuting cases involving allegations of elder abuse and Medicaid fraud.

Uncontested circuit judge races:

1st Division…Eric Haner

2nd Division…Annie O’Connell

3rd Division…Mitch Perry

6th Division…Jessica Green

8th Division…Jennifer Bryant Wilcox

11th Division…Brian C. Edwards

12th Division…Susan Schultz Gibson

13th Division…Ann Bailey Smith

Uncontested district court races:

2nd Division…Amber Wolf

5th Division…Jennifer Leibson

11th Division…Jessica Ann Moore

12th Division…Josephine Layne Buckner

13th Division…Anne Delahanty

14th Division…Stephanie Pearce Burke

16th Division…Katie King

17th Division…Erica Lee Williams

Uncontested family court races

1st Division…Angela Johnson

2nd Division…Shelley Santry

3rd Division…Lori Goodwin

4th Division…Lauren Adams Ogden

5th Division…Tara Hagerty

6th Division…A. Christine Ward

7th Division…Denise Brown

8th Division…Bryan Gatewood

9th Division…Gina Kay Calvert

10th Division…Derwin Lamont Webb

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives.