Whitley Circuit Judge Dan Ballou now has two competitors in his bid for a seat on the Kentucky Supreme Court, and both are from Pulaski County.
David Tapp, a circuit judge in the 28th judicial district, which includes Pulaski, Rockcastle and Lincoln counties, filed to run for the Kentucky Supreme Court Third Supreme Court District seat on Jan. 11.
Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Debra Hembree Lambert joined the race on Jan. 25 seeking the seat of Justice Daniel J. Venters, who is retiring at the end of his current term.
The Supreme Court Justices serve statewide but are elected from regional districts. The Third Supreme Court District consists of 27 counties: Adair, Bell, Casey, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Estill, Garrard, Green, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Lee, Leslie, Lincoln, McCreary, Marion, Metcalfe, Monroe, Nelson, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Russell, Taylor, Washington, Wayne and Whitley.
Lambert was elected to the Kentucky Court of Appeals from the same district in November 2014. A native of Bell County, Kentucky, she practiced law in Rockcastle County, prior to being appointed by Gov. Paul E. Patton as the first Family Court Judge in Pulaski, Lincoln and Rockcastle counties.
She was then elected and served on the Family Court bench from 1999 until 2006. Following her time as Family Court Judge, she returned to private practice until her election to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
Previously, Lambert served as an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney and as City Attorney for the City of Mount Vernon.
As she began developing the new family court, Lambert volunteered to work directly with middle schools in her three counties. She established a truancy prevention program called “Whatever it Takes.”
This program was a strength-based program meant to encourage attendance and achievement, building on the individual student’s own skills. If elected to the Kentucky Supreme Court, Lambert said she intends to work with educators to develop a prepackaged curriculum for the development of such a program in every county in Kentucky.
“It is a wonderful opportunity for our judges to work directly with the schools and students and help prevent so many of our problems, before they get out of hand. Judges can credibly touch subjects that others aren’t able to discuss as authoritatively,” Lambert said.
“I would suggest topics such as substance abuse prevention, cyber-bullying, domestic violence/school violence, suicide prevention, etc. I still hear from teachers and school administrators who loved how well this program worked.”
She refers to her efforts to develop a statewide program as “Whatever It Takes 2.0.”
Lambert also brought the first drug courts to her circuit, establishing both a Family Drug Court and a Juvenile Drug Court.
The National Association of Drug Court Professionals recognized Lambert in 2002 by inducting her into the Stanley M. Goldstein Drug Court Hall of Fame. She is only one of three Kentuckians so honored.
“My work as a lawyer, prosecutor, trial judge, and now Court of Appeals judge makes me uniquely qualified to serve the people of the Commonwealth. I grew up modestly and learned to work hard. That work ethic has served me well in my career,” Lambert said.
“The Kentucky Supreme Court gets the final say-so regarding our state laws in most all circumstances. Their rulings shape our everyday lives, both in our homes and businesses. The work is sometimes somber and often difficult, but I am a serious minded, constitutional conservative – with respect for all branches of government – and if elected, will faithfully and impartially execute my duties to the people of this Commonwealth.”
Lambert graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in 1983, with distinction, and from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1989, in the top 25 percent of her graduating class. She is married to Joe Sharpe and the mother of two adult sons, Joseph Patrick Lambert and John Ryan Lambert.
She also has two step-daughters, Jessica Sharpe (Nick) Stringer, who are the parents of grandson, Sam Stringer; and Chelsea Sharpe and fiancé Evan Woolums.
Debra and her husband live in Burnside.
Lambert, Ballou and Tapp will square off in the May 22 Primary Election with the top two vote getters battling it out in the Nov. 6 General Election.