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Friday, July 28, 2017

Judge Stine's Replacement to be Appointed

With the impending retirement of Judge Fred A. Stine from Campbell County's Circuit Court, the Judicial Nominating Commission will once again help fill a judicial vacancy by appointment.

RELATED: Judge Fred A. Stine Set To Retire 

Most recently in March of 2016, the commission recommended the appointment of then Campbell County Chief Assistant Courty Attorney, Cameron Blau, to serve the 17th Judicial District in Campbell County. That appointment came after former judge, Gregory T. Popovich, resigned during the middle of his term.

Blau was chosen over retired attorney, Bob Monfort, and attorney and former City of Newport Commissioner, John Hayden. 

Blau went on to defeat four other candidates in the November election to retain the seat. Fort Thomas attorney, Joe Grimme, came up 756 votes shy in his first bid at public office. Abby Voelker, Hayden and Andrea Janovic rounded out the rest of the ballot.

Because Stine is retiring August 4, the race could be on the May 2018 primary if more than two candidates file. A general election will follow in November 2018.

Judge Fred "Fritz" Stine in his home office. FTM file. 
The process

When a judicial vacancy occurs, a notice of vacancy is sent in the judicial circuit or the judicial district affected. Attorneys may recommend someone or nominate themselves. Once nominations occur, the individuals interested in the position return a questionnaire to the Office of the Chief Justice, who then meets with the local Judicial Nominating Commission to choose three nominees.

A letter naming the three nominees is sent to the governor for review, who has 60 days to appoint a replacement.

The potential candidates

Popovich's resignation in 2016 led to a hotly contested race for the appointment and subsequent campaign. There was jockeying for position, lobbying for votes and strategic money spent to secure the seat.

As tough of a campaign as that was, publicly and privately, this battle has been anything but.

It's been rumored for a few months that Stine would be retiring, longer so in legal and political circles, and the only name that has been attached to the appointment has been Grimme. He took to Facebook in June to congratulate Stine on calling it a career and made his intentions known.

"Many of you have heard by now that the Honorable Fred Stine, Campbell Circuit Judge, is retiring. He has done an outstanding job serving our county for many years as one of the most highly-respected judges in the area. I congratulate him on a wonderful career. 

With this news, you will probably not be surprised that I will be applying for the appointment as to whom will replace Judge Stine, which will be decided by Governor Bevin. I would greatly appreciate it if you would consider supporting me in my efforts."

The rumor mill has churned out the usual suspects: sitting judges and prosecutors, past candidates and elected officials with legal backgrounds, but no other public statements have been made.

Fort Thomas Matters has reached out to at least four of those individuals, but none of them would corroborate those reports.

Because the Kentucky Constitution requires that three names be submitted to the governor, in some cases the commission will submits an attorney’s name even though the attorney did not apply, which could be the case with Stine's replacement.

Joe Grimme. 
Makeup of the Judicial Nominating Commission
The commission has seven members. The membership is comprised of the chief justice of Kentucky (who also serves as chair), two lawyers elected by all the lawyers in their circuit/district and four Kentucky citizens who are appointed by the governor. The four citizens appointed by the governor must equally represent the two major political parties, so two must be Democrats and two must be Republicans.

Locally, Fort Thomas attorney, Tim Schneider, was the attorney recently nominated by his peers to serve on the committee, along with Fort Thomas attorney, David Bender.

The citizen members of the committee are Barbara Weber, Deborah Peluso, Jim Schack and Ken Moellman Sr.

It's not yet clear if the JNC has met yet or when a timetable for an appointment is expected. Until an appointment is made, sitting judges will handle Stine's caseload.

Fort Thomas Matters will update this story.

PHOTO: The Campbell County courthouse. FTM file. 

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