Williams steps down from Senate

Posted October 31, 2012 at 2:30 pm


Accepts Governor’s appointment as Circuit Judge

There was a lot of “give and take” on the local and state political scene last week, and because of the moving and shaking that was involved, there will be more “give and take” in the not so distant future, as well.

After serving 27 years in the Kentucky Legislature, the last 13 the leading member of the Kentucky Senate as President, David L. Williams is stepping down effective November 2.

Williams isn’t leaving the life of public service however, after last week being appointed by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear to fill the unexpired term of Circuit Judge Eddie C. Lovelace.

Williams was one of three nominees named by the Judicial Nominating Commission to fill the unexpired term that was created when Judge Lovelace died on September 17.

Williams, a Cumberland County attorney, represents Clinton County as a part of his six-county 16th Senate District which also includes Monroe, Cumberland, Wayne, McCreary and Whitley County.

When he is sworn in as Circuit Judge of the 40th Judicial District, he will be presiding over Circuit Court cases in Clinton County as well as Cumberland County and Monroe County.

Lovelace died in September at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, after a brief illness.

At the time of his death, Lovelace was being treated for having suffered a stroke. Since that time, however, his family has indicated they suspect Judge Lovelace was the first victim to have died among a growing list of patient deaths who contracted spinal meningitis.

Lovelace had previously received steroid injections at Nashville’s St. Thomas pain clinic. Those injections are now the subject of an investigation into a wide-spread outbreak of spinal meningitis that has so far resulted in more than 20 patient deaths.

Williams’ appointment to the 40th Judicial Circuit Court seat came on Friday, after a whirlwind of related activity in the previous view days that involved speculation from political figures as well as statewide media the Gov. Beshear would, in fact, make the appointment should Williams be one of the three nominees.

Williams and Beshear have long been political enemies with the battle between the two spilling over into last year’s general election, when the two faced each other in the November race for Kentucky Governor.

Beshear, seeking re-election as the Democrat, soundly defeated Williams, who had earlier won the Republican nomination in the primary election.

It was widely speculated that because of this bitter feud between the state’s top two political figures, Beshear would make the appointment of Williams in an effort to rid himself of his biggest political enemy in the state legislature.

Speculation also centered last week around whether or not Williams would accept the appointment if it were made, but that question was soon answered when Williams issued a statement shortly after the Judicial Nominating Committee (JNC) announced its nominees.

In a statement issued after being named one of the nominees, Williams said “I am appreciative of the nomination and if the governor appoints me, I will accept the position.”

Williams was one of three attorneys nominated for the judgeship, all three of whom were from Cumberland County.

The additional nominees were retired District Judge Stephen D. Hurt, who is currently serving as a senior judge since his retirement in 2009, and Angela M. Capps, who is currently serving as a public defender for Clinton County.

The process of naming the three nominees involved the Judicial Nominating Committee, a seven member panel which is a Kentucky Constitutional panel that includes it’s chairman, Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton.

The constitution calls for the JNC to be made up of two lawyers elected by all the lawyers in this circuit district, and four Kentucky citizens who are appointed by the governor and must equally represent the two major political parties – two Democrats and two Republicans.

The members of the JNC, in addition to Chairman Minton, included one member from Albany, Steve U. Morgan. Other members were Catherine B. Capps, an attorney from Burkesville, Nicholas Carter, an attorney from Tompkinsville, Helena Pitcock of Tompkinsville, Jarrett A. Stephens of Tompkinsville and Gary R. Lee from Burkesville.

According to the constitution, the Governor was obligated to pick one of the three nominees submitted, or else the appointment would be made by the Chief Justice had the Governor not made the appointment within 60 days.

The JNC meeting was held Thursday morning in Burkesville and was closed to the public.

After making the appointment, Beshear, who was said to be vacationing with his family in Florida when he took the action, issued a very brief statement concerning Williams’ appointment to the bench.

“The nominating commission representing lawyers and citizens in the 40th Judicial Circuit considered all the applicants for the position of circuit judge. The commission chose three people who met the rigorous criteria for serving in that position, including knowledge of the law and of the community,” Beshear said. “I am appointing Senator David Williams to this judgeship effective Nov. 2.”

The Governor went on to say very little about Williams and his career in Frankfort, adding only:

“Senator Williams is an experienced lawyer and is familiar with the district, having represented the area in the legislature for more than 20 years,” Beshear said.

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell also issued a statement regarding the appointment of Williams last Friday.

“I congratulate Senator David Williams on his appointment to serve as a judge on the 40th Judicial Circuit. For anyone who knows David Williams, it comes as no surprise that he has found yet another way to serve the people of Kentucky,” McConnell said. “David’s twenty-five years in the State Senate stand as one of the most accomplished tenures in the history of the Commonwealth. His legacy is carried out every day through the countless communities across Kentucky that have benefited from his leadership. The next chapter in David’s life will undoubtedly share the same commitment to public service that he’s demonstrated throughout his entire career.”

According to a release following the appointment, Williams will be sworn in during a ceremony this Friday, November 2, at 11:00 am CDT in the R. Fred Capps Courtroom at the Cumberland County Justice Center.

The swearing-in will be preceded by a Prayer Service Dedication at the Burkesville United Methodist Church at 10:00 am CDT. The public is welcome at both events.

Williams’ appointment will see him serving as Circuit Judge of the 40th Judicial District through the end of 2014.

Should Williams seek to continue to serve as Circuit Judge, he would have to be elected to the position in the next regularly scheduled election for circuit judges in 2014.

Williams’ decision to accept the position of Circuit Judge, and to vacate his seat as the 16th District Kentucky Senator, also sets up the issue of who will fill William’s term as State Senator.

That person will be selected through a process that involves a caucus of both political parties with representatives from each of the six counties in the 16th District.

Those caucus would result in the selection of a candidate, with those two candidates facing each other in a special election.

The date of that special election would be set by Governor Beshear prior to the caucus meetings of the two parties.

One person who has announced to the Clinton County News that he is actively seeking the appointment as the Republican nominee is Albany attorney David Cross.

A separate article regarding Cross’ wish to run in the special election for the 16th District Kentucky senate seat appears in this week’s Clinton County News, beginning on page 1.

Although several other residents from across the 16 District have been mentioned by different sources as possible candidates, none have yet made official announcement to the Clinton County News.