Sometime either in late November or early December, Daviess Circuit Judge Joe Castlen and Daviess District Judge Lisa Payne Jones will effectively swap places.

Castlen has officially retired as circuit judge but agreed to keep working until a new circuit judge could be selected. The Administrative Office of the Courts never initiated a process to appoint a new judge to the post.

Jones was the only candidate to file to run for the judgeship in November, meaning she'll become the county's second circuit judge after the November election results are certified by the Secretary of State's office.

But when Jones moves to Circuit Court, that will create a vacancy in District Court, Division III. Castlen, who started his career as a judge in District Court, said Tuesday he has agreed to serve in Jones' district division until a new district judge can be appointed.

"It appears to me it's going to be late November before Lisa takes her oath," Castlen said Tuesday. "I've already been told by (the Administrative Office of the Courts) that the chief has already authorized me to take Lisa's place."

The process for replacing Jones on the District Court will involve a local search for candidates.

County Attorney Claud Porter said there is already a judicial nominating commission in place, that will review the applications and recommend three candidates to the governor's office. If the governor does not appoint a judge from the finalists, the chief justice of the Supreme Court can make the appointment, Porter said.

"They will not start the process until there's actually a vacancy," Porter said. "That won't occur until after (Jones') election is certified, and that won't be done until the first of December."

Castlen said attorneys will have 30 days to apply for the district judgeship after the AOC announces the vacancy but said the period could be extended by 30 days if an attorney is nominated rather than applies himself or herself.

"It's my guess by the end of January, everyone who wants to apply for that position will have done so," Castlen said. "If there are only three people who have filed by the end of February, that's a really quick process to send that to the governor, but there still has to be a meeting of the (nominating) committee."

Castlen said he hopes the committee "can make a decision (on finalists) by the end of February. "... I hope to be out of here sometime in March."

The governor does not have to make an appointment. That occurred in 2016, when the judicial nominating commission recommended three finalists for the post of Daviess Family Court judge, but Gov. Matt Bevin didn't choose a candidate. Instead, the judgeship was decided by voters in November, when Judge Julie Hawes Gordon was elected Family Court judge.

Porter said even if Bevin, or state chief justice John Minton, appoints someone to the District Court bench, there will still have to be an election and perhaps a primary to narrow the field.

"There's a primary in May ... so if more than three people file to run, there will be a primary," Porter said.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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