BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT
BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT
February 1, 2020
In 1994, I became a firefighter with the Lexington (KY) Fire Department. Upon graduating from the Fire Academy, I was fortunate to be assigned to Engine 4, one of the busiest companies in the city serving one of the most diverse jurisdictions.
On the day I reported to Station 4, my fellow rookie and I were greeted by the seasoned (and salty) Captain who looked sternly at us both and simply said, "Keep the truck clean and your helmets dirty." He then walked away, leaving us in the care of the "Senior Man", Cleve.
Those eight words stuck with me. It was a boiled down lecture to make sure we knew our roles, understood our responsibilities, and we're committed to doing whatever it took to protect our fellow firefighters.
Over the next several months on Engine 4 (the Phantom), we responded to countless calls and saw tragedy on every level. A call that sticks out in my memory was a working structure fire in a shotgun house in a depressed neighborhood. We made an aggressive interior attack to extinguish the blaze and then started mopping up the mess.
As day broke and we were preparing to leave, we realized that the work we had done had put the home into better shape than it was before the fire. This was tough to comprehend because kids lived there, forced to sleep in horrible conditions.
Upon practicing law, specifically juvenile law, I realized that those living conditions were not isolated to the big city. Even in Marshall and Calloway Counties, children are living in deplorable conditions by no fault of their own.
Just like that shotgun house, family court can get pretty hot and intense. But at the end of the day, the goal should be to leave things better than we found them.
WHEN NOBODY'S WATCHING
WHEN NOBODY'S WATCHING
January 30, 2020
While working as a paramedic, I was selected to serve on the Emergency Medical Response Team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Prior to leaving for almost a month, a television news crew was assigned to follow me through a day of work, chronicling what paramedics do.
For several hours we waited but no emergency calls were dispatched. Late in the afternoon the news crew told me they had to leave to meet deadline for that night's newscast. We joked that as soon as they left, we would get busy.
Well, we got more than busy, we got slammed. The first call, about 5 minutes after they left, was to a local playground where a child had suffered a head injury when the baseball backstop collapsed on him.
While at the hospital doing the paperwork from that call, a frantic mother ran in screaming for help. Since everyone else was with the child I had just brought in, I was the only one around to help her baby who was now turning blue. I initiated treatment and called for help. As his skin began to regain it's normal color, the ER staff took over his care.
As we left the hospital to return to the station, we were dispatched to a home where a child had fallen through a plate glass window, severing his upper arm.
In the hour since the camera crew left, we had three critically ill/injured children that we treated. It would have been great for television. But more importantly, we did what needed to be done when it needed to be done with no concern about cameras.
So what does that have to do with being a Family Court Judge?
The job of Family Court Judge doesn't take into consideration politics, cameras, publicity, or personal gain. It is a job done when few are watching but so much is on the line. It requires dedication, commitment, and integrity.
January 21, 2020
One of my sons recently proposed to his girlfriend. The diamond ring on her finger (she said "yes") means different things to different people. To the couple, it is a sign of commitment and anticipation. To the jeweler, it is a sign revenue. To others that see it, it means that she is going to get married. To the insurance company, it is an asset to protect. What makes the difference in meanings is perspective.
Perspective is very important for a family court judge and I offer a perspective seasoned with life experiences that span not only the legal profession, but also two decades as an emergency responder.
After graduating high school, I joined the local volunteer fire department with the desire to help people and serve my community. This desire propelled me to seek additional education and training that resulted in being a firefighter/paramedic on the Lexington (KY) Fire Dept.
I returned to Western Kentucky in 1996 and ultimately accepted a position as a union firefighter a the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. During this time I renewed my commitment to community by again being a volunteer firefighter.
My time as an emergency responder definitely impacted my perspective. It was a daily battle in ditches, crashed cars, and burning houses. I was called upon at a moment's notice to fight battles for people on the worst (and possibly the last) day of their life. There was not always a solution to the situation, but we still did everything we could. I recall a house fire one December. By the time the call was received, the fire, which originated in the basement, had weakened the floors to the point that we could not enter the home. Fortunately, nobody was home. So we then focused on saving anything we could. While crews sprayed water to extinguish the blaze, a couple of us found a Christmas tree in front of a large window. We broke that window and salvaged the decorated tree and as many gifts as we could before the heat was too intense. Another time, I had to start IV's on a young boy and comfort him while rescue crews extricated him from the mangled car that still held his deceased mother. That definitely puts things into perspective.
I have lived a life that has left some scars. I have to treat those scars like mile posts on the interstate, showing me how far I've come, not where I am going.
My goal is to bring my perspective to the bench of the Calloway/Marshall Family Court. When people walk into that courtroom, I want them to expect a fair and just decision not influenced by allegiances, preconceptions, or emotions.
With your help, we can make that a reality.
WHAT IS FAMILY COURT?
WHAT IS FAMILY COURT?
January 16, 2020
(Taken from the Kentucky Court of Justice Website)
One Family, One Judge, One Court
Family Court is involved in the most intimate and complex aspects of human nature and social relations. For that reason, Family Court uses a case management process that distinguishes it from other trial courts. With the One Family, One Judge, One Court approach, cases are presented in a single court, allowing the same judge to hear all matters involving a particular family. This reduces the stress that can arise when individuals are shuttled between courts to resolve a variety of issues.
Focusing on the Needs of Families
Because Family Court gives cases involving families and children the highest priority, these cases do not compete with criminal and other civil cases for judicial time. As a division of Circuit Court, which is the highest trial court in Kentucky, Family Court employs full-time judges with the same qualifications as those who serve the other divisions of Circuit Court.
In addition to the family matters heard in Circuit Court, Family Court judges also handle family law matters that were traditionally decided in District Court. Family Court jurisdiction is defined by KRS 23A.100 and 23A.110 and includes the following:
Dissolution of marriage
Spousal support and equitable
Child custody, support and visitation
Dependency, neglect and abuse
Termination of parental rights
Status Offenses (runaways, truancy, beyond control)
History of Family Court
Kentucky launched an innovative and ambitious project when Jefferson County began a Family Court pilot program in 1991. It was the first such court in the state to focus solely on the needs of families and children. Family Court introduced a unique solution that would allow one judge to provide continuity by hearing all of a family's legal problems and issues.
The Family Court model expanded beyond Louisville to suburban and rural areas across the commonwealth. The project's success prompted efforts to make Family Court a permanent part of the Kentucky Constitution. Kentucky voters gave Family Court a resounding victory in November 2002 when the amendment passed in all 120 counties with more than 75 percent of the vote.
Today Family Court serves 3.2 million citizens in 71 Kentucky counties. Kentucky Family Court is so progressive and successful that it is considered a national model.
January 7, 2020
Status quo is a Latin phrase meaning the existing state of affairs. As an adult, I appreciate the status quo. I like the status quo. In fact, when the status quo shifts, I can be resistant to it. This was exhibited last week as my family traveled to Orlando. While on our trip, we were faced with an issue with our vehicle. This completely disrupted the existing state of affairs we had been enjoying. I felt the stress of needing to diagnose the issue and attempt to repair it, only to find that we would have to leave the vehicle in Florida to be repaired while we went home for work and school. At the time, I didn't realize the impact it had on on me, but in hindsight, I can see how my demeanor was different.
As I reflect on that disruption, I can't help but think of the hundreds of children whose reality, their status quo, is completely disrupted when they have to be removed from their homes because of dependency, neglect, or abuse. In my 13 years of practicing law, I have been involved in over 300 cases involving children that fall into this category. Through no fault of their own, they are removed from the home they know and the parents they know and love to often be placed with strangers. Though children are resilient, this is tough on these kids and they often do not understand why it is happening. The Family Court Judge not only has to adjudicate these cases and determine disposition (placement) of the children, they must understand the impact the situation is having on the children and make sure the needs of the children are being met until their status quo can be re-established (either through improvements in their home or permanency in another). For a Family Court Judge to do this takes more than a legal education, it takes the three attributes sought in The Wizard of Oz: wisdom, bravery, and love.
December 30, 2019
After months of contemplation, prayer, and counsel, I have formally submitted my paperwork to run to fill the vacancy as the 42nd Judicial Circuit Family Court Judge. I am thankful and humbled by the support I have already received from local attorneys, friends, and especially my family. I am committed to honoring their support throughout the campaign and beyond.
I view the role of the Family Court Judge as one of the most important positions in the community because of the impact one can have on children and families. The days are long and the things the Family Court Judges sees and hears are often raw and disturbing yet are the reality too many children face on a daily basis. The trauma seen in the Family Courtroom is no less stressful than what I experienced in the field as a paramedic. Having held the hand of a critically injured child while we extricated him from the same wrecked car that claimed his mother's life is just one of the experiences that has prepared me for this endeavor.
So as I focus on this campaign, I will daily strive to honor the law, my family, my supporters, and, most of all, God in every step I take.
We will be hitting the ground running after the first of the year and look forward to developing more and deeper relationships throughout Calloway County and Marshall County.