Judicial Nominating Commission announces district judge nominees for Boyle and Mercer

Published 7:53 pm Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Judicial Nominating Commission, led by Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr., today announced nominees to fill the District Court judicial vacancy for Boyle and Mercer counties. The counties make up the 50th Judicial District and the vacancy is in the district’s Division I.

The three nominees for the judgeship are attorneys Patrick Francis Barsotti of Danville, Stacy Elizabeth Coontz of Junction City and Christopher Joel Reed of Danville.

Barsotti serves as an assistant county attorney for Boyle County. He received his juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law (now the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law).

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Coontz is in private practice with Helton Law Office. She received her juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law (now the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law).

Reed has his own private law practice. He received his juris doctor from Florida Coastal School of Law.

The judicial seat became vacant when Judge Jeffrey L. Dotson was appointed March 17 as a Circuit Court judge for the 50th Judicial Circuit of Boyle and Mercer counties.

District Court
District Court judges handle juvenile matters, city and county ordinances, misdemeanors, violations, traffic offenses, probate of wills, arraignments, felony probable cause hearings, small claims involving $2,500 or less, civil cases involving $5,000 or less, voluntary and involuntary mental commitments and cases relating to domestic violence and abuse.

Judicial Nominating Commission
The Judicial Nominating Commission helps fill judicial vacancies by appointment when a vacancy occurs outside of the election cycle. The Kentucky Constitution established the JNC. Ky. Const. § 118; SCR 6.000, et seq.

Judicial Nominating Process
When a judicial vacancy occurs, the executive secretary of the JNC publishes a notice of vacancy in the judicial circuit or the judicial district affected. Attorneys may recommend someone or nominate themselves. The names of the applicants are not released. Once nominations occur, the individuals interested in the position return a questionnaire to the Office of the Chief Justice. Chief Justice Minton then meets with the Judicial Nominating Commission to choose three nominees. Because the Kentucky Constitution requires that three names be submitted to the governor, in some cases the commission submits an attorney’s name even though the attorney did not apply. A letter naming the three nominees is sent to the governor for review. The governor has 60 days to appoint a replacement and his office makes the announcement.

Makeup of the Judicial Nominating Commission
The commission has seven members. The membership is comprised of the chief justice of Kentucky (who also serves as chair), two lawyers elected by all the lawyers in their circuit/district and four Kentucky citizens who are appointed by the governor. The four citizens appointed by the governor must equally represent the two major political parties, so two must be Democrats and two must be Republicans. It is the responsibility of the commission to submit a list of three names to the governor and the governor must appoint a judge from this list of three.

Administrative Office of the Courts
The Administrative Office of the Courts in Frankfort is the operations arm for the state court system. The AOC supports the activities of nearly 3,300 court system employees and 406 elected justices, judges and circuit court clerks. As the fiscal agent for the state court system, the AOC executes the Judicial Branch budget.