The first couple of years out of law school I worked in the family court system one day a week. I was appointed to represent parents who were accused of abusing and neglecting their kids. That was really hard work, unpleasant work, but it had to be done.
I was arguing a case and the judge liked the way I did it. She pulled me aside and asked me to represent kids in her court. Under the Kentucky Constitution, every child who’s dragged into the court system has the right to an attorney of their own. I did that for 20 years, and it was incredibly hard and deeply rewarding. Family court is important to our community. It protects people at their most vulnerable.
When I was an attorney a friend of mine got into a situation where she married the wrong guy. He was abusive, and I got her an emergency protective order. On the order the judge wrote that the husband had engaged in nine of the 12 lethality factors. Lethality factors are a list of behaviors that indicate something is going to go horribly wrong, and the judge knew that, and in addition to checking what the statutes said, he wrote these things in the order.
The husband didn’t like that. He and his attorney didn’t think the judge should look any further than the letter of the law. They didn’t agree with the application of the judge’s experience and knowledge of how abuse works.
We fought them all the way up to the state Supreme Court and we got a unanimous opinion. And that is a landmark case. It has been published in national domestic violence reporting publications. It has been cited in California and other states. Kentucky led the way, and I was part of that. I helped make the law that made the abused safer.
I get asked the question: why are you a Family Court judge? The answer is the things I’ve seen in my work. In a recent case, I recommended the removal of a child who has autism, who was kept in a playpen in the same shoes so long his feet had grown into the shape of the shoes. I remember as a young man sitting in a deposition with a forensic doctor, and listening to that doctor describe the dent that my four-year-old client’s head made in the stove where his father threw him against it. That was the moment that he died.
I understand this is serious business. If you don’t have a judge with the insight and the empathy to understand when somebody is a danger, that leaves the most vulnerable among us unprotected – and sometimes people die.
I believe through my life experience and my professional experience I can not only do this job, but do it correctly. If some member of your family, or one of your friends, ends up in Family Court, you’ll know I have the insight and the empathy to make the right decision. I will always do my best to keep them safe.
That’s why I’m asking for your support.