Longtime Family Court Judge Marcus Vanover has been named chief judge of the 28th Judicial Circuit.
Vanover is taking over from Jeffrey Burdette, who retired from the circuit's Division 2 judgeship on March 16. The 28th Judicial Circuit is comprised of Pulaski, Lincoln and Rockcastle counties.
Per state judicial regulations, the chief judge is elected biennally by his or her peers in the circuit rather than selected by seniority. However, Vanover is the longest-serving judge currently on the bench with Circuit Judge Teresa Whitaker having been elected for Division 1 just last year and Family Court Judge Jane Adams Venters in 2018.
Judge Vanover was appointed in August 2013 after the retirement of Family Court Judge Walt Maguire and won his election for his first full term the following year. Prior to his judgeship, he served as a part-time assistant county attorney for eight and a half years under both Bill Thompson and Martin Hatfield while also maintaining a private civil practice. The judge was admitted to the bar in 2000 after earning his juris doctorate from the University of Kentucky.
"Since becoming judge, I have served on the committee that worked to revise the statewide Family Court Rules of Practice and Procedure and a committee to revise the training curriculum for court-appointed attorneys and guardians ad litem," Vanover said, adding that both were led by Justice Debra Hembree Lambert. "Currently I serve on the Circuit Judge's Education Committee. I have also served as a drug court judge for the last four years."
Judge Vanover explained that the circuit chief's role is primarily administrative outside of his traditional docket duties. The chief judge works with county governments regarding building maintenance as well as the sheriffs in the circuit regarding security.
"The chief circuit judge is responsible for making local court rules to ensure facilitation of court business," he said. "[A chief judge] works with the clerks to ensure jury panel selection and orientation and serves as a liaison for other governmental and civic agencies."
Per state regulations, other duties of the chief judge include:
• Prepare with the assistance of appropriate committees such proposed local rules as are consistent with the Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules of Criminal Procedure, and Rules of the Supreme Court, and as are required to expedite and facilitate the business of the court, including the establishment of times for conducting regular sessions of the court within the circuit or district…No local rules shall be of binding effect unless in writing, approved by the Chief Justice, and filed with the Supreme Court Clerk who shall compile such rules and make them available for general distribution.
• Assign the business of the circuit or district among the several judges as equally as possible and have published for general distribution copies of a current court calendar setting forth the assignments of the judges, the times and places assigned for hearing the various types of court business, and any special calendaring requirements adopted by the court for such hearings;
• Appoint such standing and special committees of judges as may be advisable to assist in the proper performance of the duties and functions of the court.
"I am honored to be selected by my fellow circuit judges as the new chief circuit judge for the 28th Circuit," Judge Vanover said. "It has already been a learning experience, especially with planning for the next round of selecting and orienting jury panels. Family court judges typically do not have juries in their cases, so I have enjoyed learning about the process. Judge Burdette guided us through the limitations of services due to COVID-19 before he retired. Now I am looking forward to working with the other judges, clerks, bailiffs, and attorneys in taking the next steps in expanding our in-person court services as directed by the Kentucky Supreme Court."
Judge Vanover plans to seek re-election to the Family Court next year. He and his wife Krista have two sons, and have made their home in Somerset since 2002.