Laurel County has long been said to have one of the largest quotas of cases for Family Court, but that overload will be alleviated next year.
During the recent legislative session, the 27th Circuit — which includes Laurel and Knox counties — was approved for a second Family Court judgeship. The filing deadline for candidates was Tuesday, June 7, and includes five candidates from Laurel County and one from Knox County.
Those who have filed for that position are five London attorneys and one Knox County attorney. Those London candidates filing for the additional judgeship are:
• Douglas Benge, filing on May 6;
• Harold F. Dyche on June 2;
• Jonathan Jones on May 3;
• Lucas Joyner on May 6; and
• Chris Miniard on June 3.
The sole candidate from Knox County is attorney Chris Mills of Barbourville, who filed on May 18.
The election for the second Family Court Judge will be held in November with the candidate receiving the highest votes receiving the position.
Family Court areas are defined in KRS 23A and focus on "the needs of families."
• Dissolution of marriage
• Spousal support and equitable
• Child custody, support and visitation
• Paternity, adoption
• Domestic violence
• Dependency, neglect and abuse
• Termination of parental rights, and
• Status Offenses (runaways, truancy, beyond control)
Family court began as a pilot program in Jefferson County in 1991, and called itself "one family, one judge, one court." Family court was voted in by Kentucky voters in November 2002 with over 75% of the overall vote in all of the state's 120 counties. (kycourts.gov)
According to the state's website, there are 3.2 million citizens served by Family Court in 71 Kentucky counties. Their impact has been so successful that Kentucky's Family Court system is considered as a model across the nation.
Durenda Lundy Lawson was the first Family Court Judge in Laurel County and remains the only female to hold a judgeship. The current Family Court Judge for Laurel and Knox counties is Stephen Jones.