Debra Hembree Lambert has seen the courts in Kentucky from multiple vantage points including as a private attorney, commonwealth’s attorney, city attorney, family court judge, and currently, as one of the 14 judges on the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
The Bell County native is seeking a new judicial position as a member of the Kentucky Supreme Court.
“I feel as though my extensive experience as a practitioner of law has prepared me to serve in this position, and I’m ready,” Lambert said.
Lambert was elected to the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 2014.
While there are 14 judges on the court of appeals, panels of three judges hear cases from the lower courts.
The cases are not retried. The judges review the trial record and then question the attorneys involved concerning the legal issues the court should consider.
Similar to the U.S. Supreme Court, the judges take a vote and then set out a written opinion stating the reasons for the decision.
“A very important part of serving on higher courts such as the court of appeals and the supreme court is being able to work with other judges in a collegial fashion and apply the law to craft an opinion,” Lambert said.
Lambert added that as the highest court in the state, the Supreme Court is responsible for crafting policy for the entire state.
“I find that to be very interesting,” Lambert said.
In addition, the Supreme Court makes rules for the lower courts, including rules of evidence, and rules of ethics for judges and lawyers.
Lambert said one place she doesn’t believe judges at any level should be involved in, is attempting to make law, as opposed to applying the law.
“Our role is to interpret the law, even though it is often contrary to our own personal opinion or how we would like to see a case turn out,” Lambert said.
“Judges and lawyers take an oath to uphold the Constitution, from the beginning of our careers. That is the foundation of our careers,” Lambert explained.
“The role of the judge is certainly not to make law. If a judge wants to make law, then they need to run for legislative office,” she said.
Lambert said going back to her childhood, her parents instilled in her a strong work ethic, while placing a high value on education.
“That type of upbringing leaves a sense of integrity and hard work. Those strengths have served me well,” Lambert said. “They also gave me a sense of fairness that everyone should have a level playing field. Privilege and station in life should not matter.”
“When I’m in the courtroom, I don’t pay attention to who is who, or what political party they may belong to. I have been able to be a fair judge with a reputation for hard work,” she said.
“It has been a wonderful journey.”