New Ky. Supreme Court Chief Justice sworn in

Published 10:45 am Tuesday, January 10, 2023

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Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Laurance A. VanMeter was sworn into office for a four-year term as Chief Justice, during a Monday afternoon ceremony at the High Court’s Capitol chambers.

Prior to VanMeter’s swearing-in, the ceremony was presided over by Deputy Chief Justice Debra Hembree Lambert, who remarked as it began that the justices were able to elect their leader on the first ballot, not the 15th, a reference to the number of ballots it took to choose a Speaker of the House in Washington.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, one of the speakers at the event, noted that, unlike officials in the executive and legislative branches, Supreme Court justices are selected in non-partisan elections. “Because of this, the High Court has a special responsibility to uphold the letter of the law, and to do so without bias or favor to any person or any party.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, pointed out the Chief Justice has the toughest job in Frankfort.

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“We just deal with legislators; he has to deal with over 200 judges,” Stivers said, but there was more. “You often have to decide which branch of government is right or wrong, and which way the laws are to be interpreted.”

House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, stated, “To be selected by your peers to lead them is truly a one-of-a-kind honor that is rarely bestowed on us. But with this great honor comes incredible responsibilities and demand for leadership.”

After taking the oath of office, VanMeter admitted there has been tension between the branches of government at time over the past few decades.

“It is no secret that the people of this Commonwealth have opted for a divided government between the two main political parties in much of the 21st century,” VanMeter said. “So, frequently, this Court has been called upon to be the final arbiter of disputes between the branches.”

He noted this has been true throughout of Kentucky’s history, regardless of the political affiliations of those involved.

“My pledge to our friends in the other branches of government is that we will strive to uphold the independence of the judiciary, and when we are called upon to exercise judgment, will do so in and honest and non-partisan manner, following the United States and Kentucky constitutions.”

VanMeter was elected to the Supreme Court in 2016 from the 5th Appellate District, comprising Anderson, Bourbon, Boyle, Clark, Fayette, Franklin, Jessamine, Madison, Mercer, Scott, and Woodford Counties.  Upon taking office, he became just the third Justice to have served at all four levels of the Kentucky unified court system.

Prior to being elected to the Supreme Court, Justice VanMeter served thirteen years as a Judge of the Kentucky Court of Appeals, having been elected in November 2003, and being re-elected unopposed in 2006 and 2014. He was earlier a Fayette district and circuit court judge.