Two running for judgeship serving Lincoln County

October 27, 2004|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - Two candidates are vying for the bench in the 28th Circuit Court of Lincoln, Pulaski and Rockcastle counties.

Incumbent Judge Jeffrey T. Burdette and challenger Jeffrey Scott Lawless both have extensive law experience in Somerset, including 10 or more years with the office of the county attorney.

Burdette, 42, of Brodhead, graduated from Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University in 1989. Burdette has since worked in insurance defense, personal injury and served as county attorney in Pulaski County for 10 years, where he boasted an increase in child support collections to nearly 100 percent. He was selected to serve on the State's County Attorney Association board of directors.

In January, Burdette was appointed by the governor to the 28th Circuit bench to replace retiring Judge William Cain.

Since that appointment, Burdette said he has implemented a more efficient scheduling system that sets both trial and pre-trial dates during a person's first appearance in court, "so people know when their day in court is coming, and avoid possible delays." It's a work in progress, but effective nonetheless, he said.


Still working cattle on his farm, Burdette said the farm life has taught him lessons applicable to the bench. He gets up early each morning, is the first to arrive at the courthouse and at times, the last to leave. "I've learned that hard work gets things done, and that's what we're doing here," Burdette said. "Hard work goes a long ways, and that's what we're trying to do."

Burdette said he would be impartial and independent, "and if people have been watching what [the system is] doing, they'll know the court system is becoming more efficient and effective."

Attorney Lawless, 40, of Pulaski County, has also practiced law in Somerset. Lawless graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1990. His experience has since included litigation, insurance, environmental, business, wills and estates, real estate and mental health.

He has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and U.S. District Court, the Kentucky Supreme Court and the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Lawless is also a former director for the United Way of South Central Kentucky and Operation Hope Inc. emergency youth center, and is a Sunday school teacher at Beacon Hill Baptist Church.

In a statement on the Kentucky Bar Association Web site, Lawless said election day would let the people decide which candidate's traits would best balance the bench.

"The office must be filled by an honest, qualified and competent person of legal training," Lawless wrote. "Judges should be well-versed in the law, they should possess the values upon which our laws were created, they must be motivated to do what is right, and they must be free of political influence. I possess these qualities."

Lawless also wrote that his experience helping a variety of clientele, not just his values, qualifies him for judgeship. "I have represented Pulaski County government and its boards and districts, and I have appeared in court on behalf of the cities of Somerset, Ferguson and Burnside. I have provided legal services to businesses throughout South Central Kentucky, and have helped hundreds of working families."

The victor in Tuesday's judicial election will preside over civil cases, capital offenses and felonies. Cases brought before circuit court include a wide variety of proceedings, ranging from divorces to adoptions, land disputes to drug trafficking. The judge-elect will join the ranks of 129 Circuit Court justices in Kentucky's 57 circuits.

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