The state's judicial system has created a committee to appoint the new Daviess District Court judge to replace Judge Lisa Payne Jones.

Jones was appointed Daviess Circuit Court judge, taking the position held by retired Judge Joe Castlen. Castlen agreed to move to District Court until a new district judge could be appointed. District court judges handle a large volume of cases, including traffic, small claims, juvenile cases and misdemeanor crimes. Felony criminal cases start in District Court, where it is determined whether a case will be sent to a grand jury.

Castlen said Friday the judicial nominating commission is expected to meet later this month and tentative plans are for the commission to make recommendations on an appointment to Gov. Andy Beshear by late February.

Regardless of the appointment, an election will still have to be held. As of Friday afternoon, the deadline to file for the office, there were only two candidates in the race: Misty Miller, a deputy county attorney, and Nick Payne, a deputy commonwealth's attorney.

Since the race is nonpartisan, there will not be a primary with only Payne and Miller on the ballot. They will be on the ballot in November, regardless of who is appointed to the judge's seat.

Castlen, who officially retired last year but stayed on in Circuit Court until after Jones ran, unopposed, for the seat and was sworn in, said the nominating commission is made up of state Chief Justice John Minton, two appointees from the county Bar Association and four political appointees.

"The tentative date for the committee to meet is on the 24th," Castlen said Friday. Potentially, the deadline for applications for the appointment would be in mid-February, with names sent to Beshear's office by Feb. 28, Castlen said.

"The governor's office is moving things along faster than the other governor did," Castlen said.

Both Miller and Payne said their experience in the courtroom has prepared them for the District Court judgeship.

Miller, who has been with the county attorney's office for 15 years, said she handles criminal, civil and juvenile cases in District Court.

"If you're in court, chances are you are going to be in District Court, because it covers so many areas," Miller said. "There are just so many things to do. You deal in all areas of law."

Miller said being a deputy county attorney requires fairness, which is also necessary for a judge.

"As a prosecutor in District Court, you have a duty to both the defendant and the commonwealth," Miller said. "It's very similar to what a judge would do.

"As a prosecutor, you have to look at the whole picture," Miller said. "You have to be fair. I'm incredibly fair, I can work like a son of a gun, and you need that down there. That's one of the things about District Court that appeals to me, the energy."

Miller said, if elected, one thing she'll work toward is streamlining the docket so people aren't waiting hours for their case to be called. The wait ties up witnesses and law enforcement officers as well as defendants, she said.

Miller, who is also a member of the Mental Health Court board, said she would be involved in moving defendants coming before her with mental issues to Mental Health Court, where they receive court-ordered treatment plans.

"I want to make sure District Court remains an active part of Mental Health Court," she said.

Payne has been a deputy commonwealth's attorney since 2002. Before that, he worked in the public defender's office in Lexington. He said he went to law school partly because he was interested in one day being a judge.

"District Court is the court for the people," Payne said. "Most people's only experience in the court system is going to be in District Court. You deal the most with people (in District Court) and can help them there. You can make sure their experience is fair, expedient ... and done by a knowledgeable judge."

Payne said, as judge, he would want to focus on referring people with substance abuse disorders into treatment. He said he would also work on juvenile cases to find ways to keep young defendants from picking up new charges.

"I'm willing to work with the Department of Juvenile Justice, and Court Designated Workers and everyone involved in the system to help this epidemic of violent crimes by our youth," Payne said.

"One reason the youthful offender issue is so important to me is my children are going to be in school in the community (and) I want them to be in a community that is safe."

Payne also said he would look at domestic violence cases where the offender receives probation and would revoke probation for violators.

Previously, state court officials had discussed reducing the number of Daviess County District judges. There are currently three district judges in the county. A workload study performed by the Administrative Office of the Courts in 2017 determined Daviess County has an implied need for 1.93 Circuit Court judges, 1.57 Family Court judges and 2.55 District Court judges. If the implied need in any judgeship was more than 1.44, the AOC determined an additional judgeship was needed.

When asked if Daviess County needed three District judges, Miller said, "that's an absolute yes."

When asked the same question, Payne said, "I think the caseload speaks for itself. I think (the judges) would all agree we need to keep those three judge positions."

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

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