Ky. Chief Justice resigns

John O'Brien Apr. 24, 2008, 3:56pm


FRANKFORT, Ky. (Legal Newsline) - Having fulfilled his obligation to see Kentucky's Supreme Court through a time of change, Chief Justice Joseph Lambert has decided to step down from the bench.

Lambert served the Supreme Court for 22 years, the last 10 of which have been as chief justice.

"When I became chief justice, it was with the full intention of serving only two four-year terms," said Lambert, 59. "However, due to a massive number of judicial elections in 2006 and due to significant changes in the makeup of the Supreme Court at that time, I felt a duty to stay through the period of transition.

"I'm happy to say that the Court of Justice continues to operate smoothly and this was an appropriate time for me to move on to other professional opportunities."

The Court has only had four chief justices in its history -- Scott Reed (1976-77), John Stanley Palmore (1977-1982) and Robert Stephens (1982-98).

The Chief Justice oversees the Court's administrative office and 4,000 employees statewide. He or she also proposes a biennial budget to the General Assembly and executes the Judicial Branch budget.

Lambert said he was proud of the progress the courts system made to fit the needs of families and children while he served. His resignation is effective June 27.

"I believe it's a mistake to remain for too long in a high-level position in government," he said.

Former justice James Keller (1999-2005) called serving with Lambert a "privilege."

"From my first day there until I retired, I was impressed with his leadership and his fairness," he said. "As chief justice he presided when the Court met to decide cases.

"By his example, he encouraged each justice not only to express his or her views, but also to listen and respectfully consider the views of the other justices. He never called for a vote on a case until all justices had fully expressed their views."

Lambert will call for a vote in the coming weeks to select his successor as chief justice.

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