Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham retired on January 31, 2019. He served on the state supreme court from 2007 to 2019.
Under Kentucky law, if there is a midterm vacancy on the state supreme court, the governor appoints a successor from a list of three names provided by the Kentucky Judicial Nominating Commission. Cunningham’s replacement will be Gov. Matt Bevin’s (R) first nominee to the seven-member supreme court. He or she must be elected in 2020 to serve the remainder of Cunningham’s term, which expires in 2023.
The supreme court judicial nominating commission is made up of seven members—two attorneys elected by the Kentucky Bar Association and four citizens appointed by the governor. The chief justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court chairs the commission. The four citizens must equally represent Republicans and Democrats.
Nominating commission members must be residents of the district of the vacancy being filled. They are not permitted to hold public or political office while serving. Members serve four-year terms and are not paid for their service.
Kentucky joins Iowa, South Dakota, and Texas, as states which have a vacant seat on their state supreme courts. Three other states have announced upcoming vacancies on their state supreme courts – North Carolina, Arizona, and Virginia. Those seats will become vacant in February, March, and September, respectively.