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Armstrong: March 16th last day

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Judge’s replacement may be deferred until election

By Lisa King

Linda Armstrong, district judge of the 53rd Judicial District since 1998, announced her resignation Monday morning.

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Armstrong withdrew from the judicial race in the 2014 Election just before the filing deadline in January, citing health issues. She said at that time that she didn’t know if she would serve the remainder of her term, and in Monday’s statement, she reiterated those concerns.

Her last day on the bench will be March 16, and the decision for replacing her would fall to Gov. Steve Beshear after a complicated judicial process.

Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. normally would call a nominating commission that would publish a notice of vacancy in the judicial district affected. Attorneys may recommend someone or nominate themselves, and Minton would meet with the nominating commission to choose three nominees and send that list to the governor. Beshear would have 60 days to appoint a replacement.

But Leigh Ann Hiatt, public information officer for the Administrative Office of the Courts, said she did not yet know whether a replacement for Armstrong would be chosen through the typical judicial nominating process.

“This is an election year, so they could let this go by election, but I will not know that until that resignation makes its way to Chief Justice Minton’s office,” Hiatt said.

“So it might be awhile before we see if he actually calls a judicial nominating commission or if that will filled by election, since this is an election year for circuit and district judges both.

“Circuit judges serve eight year terms, and district judges serve four year terms – the elections coincide in 2014 – so that may be a factor in whether to fill this by appointment or whether to just wait until this fall,” Hiatt said.

If the decision is made not to appoint a replacement?

“They would have to assign senior judges or other sitting judges,” Hiatt said.  

Two candidates have filed to replace her: Commonwealth Attorney Laura Donnell and attorney J.R. RoBards.

Armstrong, who serves Shelby, Anderson and Spencer counties in Division 1 of the 53rd Judicial District, was appointed in January, 1998, by Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton to fulfill the unexpired term of Judge Fred Bond, who had retired. She won election that fall and was re-elected three times.

She is the chief district judge for the 53rd Judicial Circuit and serves on the District Judges' Association Legislative Committee, which serves as a resource for the legislature and testifies before committees.

Armstrong started the Shelby County Teen Court program in 1998, which trains middle and high school students to act as attorneys, clerks, bailiffs and jurors in sentencing certain juveniles convicted of first or second offenses of a relatively minor nature.

A 1989 University of Louisville law school graduate, Armstrong is a former attorney for the Shelby County Board of Education.