Judge Lisa P. Jones will become Daviess County’s newest Circuit Court judge and will replace current Circuit Court Judge Joe Castlen after the upcoming November election.
Castlen, who announced his retirement in January, is still on the bench until his replacement can take the position. According to the county clerk’s office, the cutoff to file for the district judge seat was Tuesday. Jones is the only name that will appear on the ballot.
Coming from her position as a District Court judge, a position she’s held since 2001, Jones said she’s excited to start her new role as Circuit Court judge in November.
Jones has been awarded for her judiciary work a number of times. In 2014, she was named Kentucky Judge of the Year by the Kentucky Citizen Foster Care Review Board, and she was also named the 2011 Judge of the Year by CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). Gov. Steve Beshear appointed Jones to the Juvenile Justice Oversight Council in 2014 and she was given the opportunity to draft Kentucky’s first statewide rules of practice and procedure for juvenile cases by Deputy Chief Justice Mary C. Noble.
While District Court revolves around traffic charges, misdemeanor criminal charges and small claims, Jones’s new role as Circuit Court judge will put her in charge of trials, serious civil and felony criminal cases, such as homicide and drug trafficking.
“I’ve really loved being a District Judge,” Jones said. “I had so much interaction with the public, and I love that experience. I love working with juveniles — that’s a passion of mine.”
Though she said Circuit Court will present a different atmosphere than the one she’s grown used to, Jones said the timing was exactly right, that everything had fallen into the right place in her career, when she decided to apply for the Circuit Court position.
“I love doing the research and the writing. This will be an opportunity to do more of that,” Jones said of her new role. “It was the right time to move. I’ve been working to bring Mental Health Court to the area, which is an area of juvenile justice in Kentucky that hasn’t been reformed yet. There are a few Mental Health Courts in Kentucky, but there are none in Daviess County.”
Jones has worked with a team of people to bring Mental Health Court to Daviess County, and she says that once it’s approved, she will take the role as Mental Health Court judge.
“We’ve been seeing so many in jail, and they’ve committed crimes, but sometimes they may not be capable of conducting themselves to the accordance of the law because of mental illness,” Jones said. “If we don’t take care of that underlying issue then we’re not going to fix the problem. It saves costs and saves lives.”
Jones said Daviess County has submitted a grant application for funding to support a local Mental Health Court to the Kentucky Department of Corrections and expects to receive an answer any day now. By implementing Mental Health Court, Jones said local judges can keep an eye on those who may qualify for MHC and keep incurring criminal charges.
“We determine competency, whether they were competent when the committed the crime and whether they’d be competent in the future. We’d take a look at their medication and make sure they’re on the right medication and taking it regularly. We’d try to get them to a point where they can assume responsibility for themselves,” Jones said.
Jones said Daviess County has all the players and framework in place for her vision–the only thing that’s left is to get the OK from the state.
Replacing Judge Castlen as Circuit Court judge will certainly be a task, Jones said, though she’s honored that her colleagues believe in her skill and experience.
“I’m really flattered that the local bar felt that way, that they thought I had the temperament and experience and skill to fill this position,” Jones said. “I don’t take it lightly. Castlen has left some enormous shoes to fill. This opportunity is an honor, but it’s also a responsibility.”