Whitley Circuit Judge Dan Ballou is hoping to get a new title next year, Kentucky Supreme Court Justice.
Ballou filed a notice of intent in early July to seek the Third-District Kentucky Supreme Court Justice seat during next year’s election. The district comprises 27 counties.
Ballou said he has been considering running for the Kentucky Supreme Court for about two years.
“I don’t want to sound like I am bragging, but I think I am a good judge,” Ballou said. “I am fair. I try to do what’s right. That doesn’t mean I make the right decision all the time, but the decisions I make, I make them for the right reasons.”
“I really think we need folks, who are fair, honest, diligent, and down-to-earth at every level of the judiciary, but state and federal. So if that is my conviction, I need to follow it.”
The Supreme Court of Kentucky is the court of last resort and the final interpreter of state law. It consists of seven justices who are elected from the seven appellate districts and serve eight-year terms.
The justices, as a panel, hear appeals of decisions from the lower courts and issue decisions or “opinions” on cases, according to the Kentucky Supreme Court’s website.
Ballou, 51, is a native of Whitley County, and attended Williamsburg city schools for 12 years before graduating in 1984.
After graduation, Ballou entered the Marine Corps where he served for seven years on active duty.
Following that, he attended college at the University of Kentucky where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1995. Then it was off to Oxford, Mississippi, where he got a law degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1998.
After graduating law school, Ballou worked for a local law firm in Corbin for a few months before beginning a yearlong internship with federal Judge Eugene Siler Jr.
Ballou was first elected in November 2002 to the district court bench narrowly defeating incumbent Kimberly Frost.
In 2007, Ballou ran for circuit judge to fill the unexpired term of Jerry Winchester, who retired. He handily defeated fellow district Judge Cathy Prewitt in the special election that year and has served as circuit judge ever since.
Ballou said his experience serving on both levels of the trial bench in Kentucky helps make him qualified for the position.
“Over the years, I think I have figured out what it takes to be a good judge. The main thing is fairness and objectivity. Any attorney, who has gone to law school, passed the bar and have practiced a little while are capable of learning the rules,” Ballou said.
“It is the ability to be objective and set aside your personal opinion, your political opinion and make a ruling based on the law. I am just good at that. It is gift. I have some virtues and I have many flaws. One of my virtues is my ability to be objective. I think that is the most important thing for a judge.”
Ballou noted that being a judge is a lot like being a referee; only the stakes are much higher than a ball game. The duties are similar.
For instance, a referee may not like the three-point shoot rule in college basketball, but they have to enforce it.
“Just because you don’t agree with it doesn’t mean that you don’t uphold it. Judges are not supposed to be policy makers. Lawmakers and executives do that. They make the law,” Ballou said.
“A judge’s role is to make sure that the other branches abide by the constitution. It is not our job to make policy. It is our job to call balls and strikes and that is just something I am good at. I feel that makes me very qualified.”
What does Ballou feel his chances of winning are?
“I feel like I have a shot or I wouldn’t waste my time and everybody else’s time, which are supporting me,” he said.
“You never know. I am just going to do the best I can, and try to be good to people. That is not because I am running for office. It is because that is what God wants me to do. Let’s see what happens. I have a shot.”
Ballou said he would encourage people just to vote for whomever they feel is best for the position.
“Whoever gets this position of Supreme Court Justice for the Third District of Kentucky is an employee of the people. I am not going to tell people, whom they should vote for. They have to make their mind up on their own. I hope that folks vote for me.”