Primary election 2022: 30th District Court, Division 4
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 4 seat has been held by Judge Julie Kaelin since 2019. Kaelin is running for the 30th Circuit’s Division 4 seat, and three candidates are running to fill her District Court seat.
- Lora Chisholm Holman, 51, is a private attorney with a variety of experience, including a previous stint as a prosecutor in the County Attorney’s office.
- Jennifer Murzyn Yancey, 37, Division Chief of Warrant Intake for the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office.
- Yvette De La Guardia, 34, is a solo practitioner in Louisville, and former public defender in Louisville Metro for seven years.
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?
Holman: I have 20 years of experience as an attorney in Jefferson County including many aspects of District Court over which I would preside if elected. I started my career as a Prosecutor and victim's advocate with the Jefferson County Attorney's Office. I next joined a law firm filing litigation and making court appearances all over the state, followed by corporate work as a Director for a billion dollar company serving developmentally disabled and elderly clients. Currently, I manage a solo practice where I am involved in civil litigation, probate matters (estate work, wills, etc.), and am appointed to serve as a Guardian ad litem to protect the rights of individuals for whom guardianship is sought through court. Because of my diverse background I am well versed on appearing in court with clients, presenting arguments and handling trials. I have learned through the years the temperament necessary to be a Judge and the empathy required to meet people wherever they may be on their journey.
Yancey: I have been a prosecutor, in District and Circuit Court, for over 10 years. I have handled every type of case that comes through our criminal courts, everything from a speeding ticket to murder charges. My invaluable experiences have exposed me to every type of matter that comes before a District Court Judge. In my current role as the Division Chief of Warrant Intake for the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office, I am faced with the question of whether the issue is criminal or civil on a daily basis. I have been involved with Drug Court, handled a night court traffic docket, arraignments, hearings, worked in the Special Victims Unit, the Domestic Violence Intake Center, and have extensive trial experience. All of these opportunities have given me the exposure a judge needs. I not only have the quantity, but I have the quality experience needed, and that is why I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I am the most qualified candidate for District Court Judge, Division 4.
De La Guardia: Whether I was litigating cases in Jefferson County's trial courts or in Kentucky's appellate courts, I have always worked hard to ensure that all people receive fair and equal treatment under the law because I understand the individual and societal harm that often results from even the appearance of injustice. Jefferson County needs experienced district court judges whose commitment to our legal principles is driven at least in part by this understanding. That is the kind of judge I want to be for the people of Jefferson County.
What is your judicial philosophy, and how will it affect your actions on the bench?
Holman: My philosophy is simple. All people appearing before the court deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and should be allowed to be heard by an open minded, impartial Judge who listens to the case and evaluates the evidence without preconceived ideas about the case or preference to one party. Because of my experience in operating a solo practice, I have made many court appearances with a diverse array of clients. Some clients have felt that they didn't receive the attention they deserved or that their case was of little significance and were discouraged by the process. I think it's crucial for all judges to acknowledge that every case on the docket is important to someone and needs to be given adequate time for both parties to present their case and be heard and to recognize each person as a person, not as a case number. My goal if elected would be to follow the law and treat every person in a just and fair manner with genuine concern for their case.
Yancey: I don’t think I fit into just one judicial philosophy. I would not use my position as a judge to advance any political or personal belief. I would have no issue with overruling some precedent given if that was needed. As a judge, when things are presented to me, I would apply the law in that particular situation. Every circumstance is different and I don’t think there’s any way to say that I will always do it this or that way. The law is fluid, it is always evolving. There are some circumstances where there really is no room for much interpretation and there are others where there would be room to interpret it differently than what a judge did 50 years ago. I will always respect the rights of everyone involved in the court system in my courtroom. Defendants, victims, attorneys, everyone will be treated in a fair manner and with respect. As a judge I would remain impartial in all proceedings and ensure that the scales of justice are balanced in every proceeding.
De La Guardia: I believe judges have an obligation to interpret and apply the controlling law to the facts before them in every case without regard to external influences or pressures.
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?
Holman: While the deaths occurring at the jail are alarming, the judiciary is not the body that governs the jail and would not have control over the safety aspects of the jail. Judges may exercise some control over the number of people that are held by the jail and are responsible for carefully evaluating the need to hold someone in jail verses releasing a person on their own recognizance and weigh all relevant factors such as prior record, seriousness of the crime, flight risk, danger to community/public safety, etc. when evaluating if a person needs to remain in custody. Beyond this, the judiciary does not exercise control over the safety of the environment or living conditions at the jail.
Yancey: The judiciary needs to have a seat at the table to discuss the issues at the jail. There should be a collaborative effort by all interested parties to address concerns with the jail. I don’t think it should be out of the question for the judges to ask questions of the jail to ensure concerns are being addressed. However, the judges role is limited, as it should be to ensure a judge is remaining impartial and staying out of political issues. The law requires judges to consider many factors when deciding bond, one of those factors is danger to the community. Judges have to balance a number of factors that are outside of what has or is happening at the jail. I think, therefore, the role of the judiciary should be to use their resources and position to speak to those that can effectuate change. Judges are part of the Jail Policy Committee to discuss jail population so that should be used to ensure the jail is being responsible and maintaining a safe environment for both inmates and staff.
De La Guardia: Because our judiciary has an obligation to participate in activities that promote access to justice for all, judges must work in collaboration with LMDC and policymakers to identify and redress the specific failures that are causing the deaths and unsafe conditions.