Chief Justice of the Commonwealth Laurance B. VanMeter appointed Justice Debra Hembree Lambert this week as deputy chief justice of the Supreme Court of Kentucky. The deputy chief justice fills in when the chief justice recuses in a case or an administrative matter.
“During her many years on the trial and appellant benches, Justice Lambert has shown herself to be a capable leader and I’m proud to have her as our deputy chief justice,” Chief Justice VanMeter said. “Her legal knowledge, experience and compassion will serve us all well should she need to act as chief justice.”
Justice Lambert succeeds Deputy Chief Justice Lisabeth T. Hughes (ret.), who retired in December.
“I am excited to serve the court and the Judicial Branch in this capacity,” Justice Lambert said.
Justice Lambert has served on the Supreme Court since January 2019 and was elected from the 3rd Supreme Court District in Eastern Kentucky. She joined the Supreme Court bench after four years as a Kentucky Court of Appeals judge. She previously served as a judge for Circuit Court/Family Court Division for the 28th Judicial Circuit of Lincoln, Pulaski and Rockcastle counties.
She was recently appointed chair of the newly created Kentucky Judicial Mental Health Commission. Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. (ret.), who retired in December, chose her to lead a team of stakeholders in a statewide effort to improve how the court system handles cases in which parties have mental health, substance use and/or intellectual issues.
Supreme Court of Kentucky
The Supreme Court is the state court of last resort and the final interpreter of Kentucky law. Seven justices sit on the Supreme Court and all seven justices rule on appeals that come before the court. The justices are elected from seven Supreme Court districts and serve eight-year terms. A chief justice, chosen for a four-year term by fellow justices, is the administrative head of the state’s court system and is responsible for its operation. The Supreme Court may order a ruling or opinion to be published, which means that the ruling becomes the case law governing all similar cases in the future in Kentucky.