Contenders Line Up for New Family Court Judgeship in Somerset

Sep 5, 2018

Jane Venters, Melinda Dalton, and Keith McLamb are vying for a new family court judgeship for Pulaski, Lincoln, and Rockcastle counties.
Credit Jane Venters\Melinda Dalton

A new family court judgeship for Pulaski, Lincoln, and Rockcastle counties has created a three-way race.

A second family court judge is being added to the 28th Judicial Circuit, which has the heaviest family court caseload in the state.

Among the candidates is Somerset attorney Jane Adams Venters.  Venters has been practicing since 1985 and specializes in family law and civil litigation.

She's the wife of Kenutcky Supreme Court Justice Daniel Venters.  Venters says she has the judicial temperament for the bench and, if elected, she would focus on increasing the efficiency of family court.

"It's imperative we get families through the process as quickly as possible because the longer they're in the process, the more stress and hardship they tend to incur," Venters told WKU Public Radio.

Melinda Gillum Dalton has also filed to run for the family court judgeship.  Like Venters, Dalton is a Somerset native and graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Law.  She has practiced family law for 20 years.  Her husband is David Dalton, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney for the 28th Judicial District.

Dalton says substance abuse is affecting many areas of family law, including abuse, neglect, and child custody.

"We see a lot of grandparents and other family members who struggle to pick up the slack when a parent has an addiction, and it's created a huge volume of cases in family court," explained Dalton.

The current family judge for the 28th Judicial Circuit, Marcus Vanover, has nearly three times the caseload of a typical family court judge in Kentucky.  According to a study by the Administrative Office of the Courts, Vanover closed more than 3,800 cases in 2017.  The average for Kentucky’s family court judges last year was about 1,700.

The Kentucky General Assembly passed HB 348 this year, allowing the AOC to reallocate the number of judges based on population or caseload.

The family court race for Pulaski, Lincoln, and Rockcastle counties includes a third candidate, Keith McLamb, who also specializes in family law.  He did not respond to requests for an interview.

The winner of the new family court judgeship will be decided in the November election.