TRI-COUNTY — Although the Tri-County heavily favored Michael Caperton, Jacqueline Caldwell claimed the 3rd Appellate District, 1st Division’s Judge of Appeals seat left open after the election of Debra Hembree Lambert to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Caldwell received 65,851 votes (54%) in the 535 precincts that voted in the judge's race. Caperton received 54,098 votes (46%).
Caldwell, originally from Marion County, is the youngest of 15 children, and shares on her website that she comes from a long line of central Kentucky farmers.
She is a graduate of Campbellsville University and earned her Juris Doctor degree in 1999 from the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville.
Caldwell has 20 years of experience practicing law. She started as a prosecutor, and credits that as teaching her to handle a heavy case load with efficiency and effectiveness. She opened her own law firm in 2003, and says she has been representing families and children ever since.
Caldwell says that her journey and interest into law started when she was young. She found herself in an abusive relationship and searched for help. She ended up at a shelter helping those escape from domestic violence.
“They helped me get an EPO, like they walked me though the process to do that. Of course, I had to show back up at court in two weeks to get the DVO. But at that point in my life I can promise you, I wouldn’t have even known where to turn, or where to start or how to have gotten one,” she said.
Because of her past, Caldwell says she wanted to do something that would provide for her and her family, but also wanted to reach out and help others, like she had once been helped.
“There are other ways of doing that. There are other ways of helping people even in that same field that doesn’t necessarily mean going to law school or becoming a lawyer. But I liked the idea of that, and I wanted to do that,” she said.
Caldwell says she believes the Court of Appeals panel needs more voices that have practical experience in domestic relations.
“We lost one of our voices at the Court of Appeals who had a pretty good history of practicing domestic relations law, when Debbie Lambert went to the [Kentucky] Supreme Court,” said Caldwell.
Caldwell says she knows that some people may point to her never being a judge as a negative. However, she says she isn’t worried about that, and has a different take on the situation.
“I think too many years on the bench certainly, not every judge by any means, but too many years on the bench and you forget that there are real people’s lives waiting on that,” she continued. “Because you’re not dealing with that client who is stressed out until this case is over with and can’t move on with their life. The judge doesn’t see that part of it, and they shouldn’t, but I think it’s part of human nature that too many years on the bench and you lose that touch.”
“I think it’s very important to have judges who adhere to pretty stringent legal ethics, and judicial ethics and standards,” she explained, “and I intend to that.”
Caperton, a native of Laurel County, previously served on the Court of Appeals between 2007 and 2014.