Kentucky is one of only ten states that elects judges at every level of its court system through nonpartisan elections. Judges in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Circuit Courts and Family Courts are elected to eight-year terms, while District judges are elected to four-year terms.
Nine of Jefferson County’s 43 judicial elections have three or more candidates this year, subjecting them to primary elections on May 17 to determine who will advance to the general election on November 8.
Kentucky’s District Courts are trial courts of limited jurisdiction, covering misdemeanor criminal cases and small claims civil litigation. The District 30, Division 8 seat has been held by Judge David Bowles since 2008. Bowles is not running for reelection, and three candidates are running to replace him.
- Jessica Stone, 38, is a Assistant Jefferson County Attorney as a prosecutor in the Criminal Division.
- Karen Faulkner, 41, is a private defense attorney and firm owner, former public defender and adjunct law professor at the University of Louisville.
- Lindsay Volk Beets, 35, is an Assistant Jefferson County Attorney as a prosecutor in the Criminal Division.
WFPL News sent a three-question survey to every candidate for judicial office in the nine races with primary elections impacting Jefferson County. Some candidates did not respond in time to be included; responses have been edited for clarity and length.
What makes you the most qualified candidate for this judgeship?
Stone: I have the most well-rounded legal experience in my race as I have practiced in criminal, civil, and family court litigation as well as transactional areas including real estate and finance. I also bring valuable life experience, including my own experiences in the court system as a litigant and a victim, which gives me a perspective and understanding that can only be gained by having to endure the court system as a party in a legal action.
Faulkner: I have sixteen years’ experience as an attorney in all aspects of District Court as well as Circuit, Family and Federal Courts. I practiced as a public defender for 6.5 years before opening up my own law office where I continue criminal defense, civil and family law. I continue to accept pro bono and low fee cases from the PD and the Legal Aide in my commitment to provide legal representation to all. This work has given me extensive jury and bench trial experience at all State court levels and a deep understanding of the cases that will come through District Court. I have earned numerous awards as an attorney including being voted “Top Lawyer” by my peers for five consecutive years. I have also served as an adjunct professor at the UofL Brandeis School of Law in 2013 and 2015. I devote my career to serving this community through hard-work and commitment to justice for all and will continue this dedication when I serve Jefferson County as your next District Court Judge.
Volk Beets: As an Assistant Jefferson County Attorney, I represented the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky in prosecuting felony and misdemeanor crimes. I am an Arraignment Court Prosecutor and the first female Veterans Treatment Court Prosecutor. In addition to my work as a prosecutor, I started my career as a Volunteer Attorney and an Equal Justice Works — Veterans Legal Fellow for the Legal Aid Society of Louisville. While there, I worked with children, veterans, and victims of domestic violence inside the courtroom. I also helped guide them through the systems outside the court. I am the most qualified in my race because I experience in both civil and legal work. I have spent the last five years in the trenches of the District Court, fighting for the victims of this community. Working in District Court has given me the experience that you can only get by being in the courthouse day in and day out.
What is your judicial philosophy, and how will it affect your actions on the bench?
Stone: Louisville deserves more and should expect more from its justice system. We need public servants on the bench who understand that we are dealing with people’s lives when they are hailed into court. The financial and emotional stresses of Court are real and no one should have to endure them longer than necessary. We need to open up all the courts. We need to open additional special courts such as foreign language court and homeless court to break some of the barriers to justice, promote efficiency, and to address the problems in our community.
Faulkner: I believe in fairness and progress in the Court system. Every individual that enters my courtroom will be treated with respect whether they are the accused or a victim. I would like to foster the use of alternative resolutions including mental health court, drug court, veterans’ treatment court and restorative justice, and push to add and expand these services, including bringing them into juvenile court to assist with our at-risk youth. I believe in restoring faith in our Judiciary by opening courts up and removing barriers to court access such as lengthy delays in obtaining court dates, part-time courts, and minimal office hours. I pledge to be available to the community and all members of the bar. I further would like to continue the use of technology as an option to assist in access for observers and those involved in cases in order to improve attendance and promote participation. Fairness and progress in our District Court, creates Justice for All in our community.
Volk Beets: As an Assistant Jefferson County Attorney over the past five years, I have worked with many judges, and, to me, the best ones have a few things in common. Number one, they listen. I may not always agree with their rulings, but I know that they listen to all sides and make decisions only after weighing what has been said. They are fair. Good judges always try to be fair. Often defendants and victims end up in court after making a bad decision or being put in a position where they feel there are no good decisions left. Whenever possible, I think good judges try to help create new options by being fair to all sides. Finally, they follow the law. Judges are not elected to create law. That’s the role of the legislature. So my Judicial Philosophy would be to listen, be fair, and follow the law.
In light of recent reports regarding deaths and unsafe conditions at the Louisville Metro Detention Center, what is the role of the judiciary in maintaining a safe and responsible jail?
Stone: If I were a judge in district court, I would demand a daily list of those incarcerated in LMDC. I would demand a list of those individuals arrested and brought in since end of business the previous day. Those newly individuals need to be seen regardless of the county issuing the warrant. I would also ask for the prisoner-to-corrections officer ratio each day/shift. While judges cannot control the jail’s understaffing problem or the physical conditions, we can help manage the workload by closely monitoring the occupancy and keeping only those that need to be in custody in custody while releasing those for petty offenses.
Faulkner: The Judiciary plays a significant role in maintaining a safe and responsible jail. The jail is currently understaffed and overcrowded, which has proven to be a deadly combination, without proper services and access to mental health. The Judiciary must examine each individual to determine if there is an alternative that is both safe and just. I currently serve on the Jail Policy Committee as the private bar member, where we foster bringing down the jail population. The Judiciary must examine reasonable bail and use our pre-trial system to truly evaluate flight risk and whether someone is a danger to the community. The Court must create systems that ensure those held at the jail are being brought to court and see a Judge within the timeframe required by law. I believe the Judiciary must look at bail alternatives over incarceration and not use our jails to simply house the mentally ill, the drug addicted and the poor and create a jail that serves rather than harms our justice system.
Volk Beets: As a candidate for judge, the canon of ethics prohibits me from commenting on specific ongoing cases and issues on which I may have to rule. There has been a lot of discussion about the deaths at Louisville Metro Corrections. As a human being, I feel that the recent deaths are a tragedy and must be thoroughly investigated, but we also must look at the problems with the system. All stakeholders need to come together and address the many problems. For example, a person arrested in Jefferson County and charged with a crime in eastern Kentucky could spend weeks awaiting transport to that county to face charges. Their justice is delayed, and the taxpayers of Jefferson County have to foot the bill. Unfortunately, jails are necessary, but the system should follow the law, be humane and respect taxpayers.