Primary election 2022: 30th Circuit Court, Division 5
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 Circuit Courts are trial courts of general jurisdiction, covering felony criminal cases and large claims civil litigation. The Circuit 30, Division 5 seat has been held by Judge Mary Shaw since 2007. Shaw is running for reelection against two challengers.
- Tracy Evette Davis, 43, is a private lawyer working in most areas of law, including civil, misdemeanor, felony and family law who provided defense for indicted Breonna Taylor protestors.
- Christine Miller, 36, is a trial attorney working in criminal defense and domestic violence at Suhre and Associates, LLC.
- Mary M. Shaw, is an incumbent judge for Circuit 30-5, running for reelection; first elected in 2006. Shaw signed the no-knock warrant for Breonna Taylor's apartment.
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?
Davis: Having been in private practice for the last 9 years I have represented clients in every district, family, and circuit court division in Jefferson County. I have litigated traffic, criminal misdemeanor and felony cases, probate, contract disputes, divorces, and adoptions to name a few. I have prosecuted domestic violence cases and represented children as a guardian ad litem. I am also a certified mediator. I have handled hundreds and maybe even thousands of hearings and trials before the courts. This diverse experience brings a broader perspective to the bench. I understand the legal process fully and know first hand the hard work litigants and attorneys perform to bring a case to trial. I believe in applying the law in an unbiased manner and when something calls for judicial discretion to use that discretion in the most unbiased and fair way possible.
Miller: I have appeared before more than 60 judges throughout my legal career. I have handled thousands of cases in all aspects of the law including criminal, family, civil, and juvenile. I am well respected within the legal community as I am honest, fair, knowledgeable, prepared, and solutions oriented. I will bring no nonsense practicality to the bench. Respect and fairness are paramount in the courtroom. I have much respect for judges who embody these principles and lead by example, and I have had the honor of practicing before many of them. I am running for Circuit Court Judge because I want to change the trajectory of people’s lives for the better. As such, I humbly ask for your vote on May 17th.
Shaw: I have been the sitting judge in Division 5 of Jefferson Circuit Court for over fifteen years. For the last fourteen years, I have been a volunteer Drug Court judge and have helped many people with addictions get treatment instead of being incarcerated. I have been endorsed by the Citizens for Better Judges. Prior to becoming a judge, I was a staff attorney for various circuit court judges for sixteen years and a District Court trial commissioner for eleven of those years. My opponents have no judicial experience and to my knowledge have not even appeared before me as an attorney in Division 5. Experience matters!
What is your judicial philosophy, and how will it affect your actions on the bench?
Davis: Courtesy, firmness, and fair application of the law are absolutely necessary characteristics that should be embodied by a judge on the bench. I will always require respect for the court and the judicial process in the courtroom staying focused on the issue or issues in dispute not on the particular litigant or lawyer. My role as a judge is to apply the law fairly and accurately. When disparate impact or an unjust outcome may be the result of applying the law as written that is when judicial discretion comes into play and should be used.
Miller: Spending a summer studying directly under the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was one of the most profound experiences of my life. Justice Scalia’s mission that summer was dedicated to instilling my select group of next generation attorneys with his passion for navigating the rule of law, along with a personal sense of responsibility and commitment to upholding the future integrity of the judiciary. My time as both a public defender and a private attorney have allowed me to connect with people directly affected by the court system and showed me the impact, both positive and negative, a judge can have on an individual’s life, especially a child. I experienced first-hand the overarching negative consequences when judges do not respect the rule of law or those before the court. I also witnessed compassionate judges change the trajectory of people’s lives that appeared before them for the better. When judge, I will follow the law and uphold the integrity of the judiciary.
Shaw: My judicial philosophy is to be fair and impartial. I treat everyone who comes into my courtroom with respect and without bias, whether that person is a criminal defendant, a party to a civil lawsuit, a pro-se litigant, an officer or an attorney. Division 5 is open to the public, and anyone is welcome to come see how I conduct court.
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?
Davis: This question goes directly to the issue of bail reform. Prison is a tool to punish and jail should be used as a means to keep the community safe while cases are being adjudicated. Bail reform is definitely needed in the state of Kentucky. We have issues of over crowding, not having enough correction officers and litigants being held in jail due to their inability to afford bond although a bond has been set and could actually be as low as $100. One thing that can be done from the bench is to look at these issues and to come up with alternate resolutions than holding litigants in jail such as surety bonds, bond credits, hip, etc. I fully support and will
Do all that is in my ability to help improve this problem while actively making sure to make rulings that will keep the community safe.
Miller: The role of the judiciary is to follow the law. Every death is a tragedy, and these recent tragedies are clearly indicative of larger issues facing both our judicial system and our criminal justice system. Louisville has suffered immensely over the past two years. Complacency cannot be tolerated. Judges need to clear backlogs and schedule faster trials. The presumption of innocence is the cornerstone of our democracy. I want to be a proactive part of the solution.
Shaw: A judge does not have control over how a jail is run or how it is staffed, as that is the responsibility of Metro government. A judge, however, does have control over the jail population. As a judge, I try to release people or if necessary, I set a reasonable bond always keeping in mind the safety of the community.