MURRAY — For the second consecutive year, a longtime member of Murray’s legal profession is receiving a chance to serve on the highest court in the commonwealth of Kentucky.

Last year, it was David Buckingham becoming one of only four Kentuckians to ever serve as a jurist for the four pillars of the state’s court system — district judge, circuit judge, Kentucky Court of Appeals judge and Kentucky Supreme Court justice. Now, Jeff Roberts, who has practiced law in Murray since 1992, has been appointed by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear to serve as a special justice for the Supreme Court.

“It’s the highest court in the state of Kentucky, so having this chance is obviously something I’m thankful for. I’m very appreciative,” Robers said Sunday. “Sitting on the Supreme Court is very humbling. That’s the way I’m looking at it.”

Roberts has been selected to serve on one case, Alexandria Stanziano, Et Al v. Andrew Cooley, M.D., Et. Alj, which involves a matter from 2014 in Somerset. Media reported that prominent Pulaski County attorney Mark Stanziano was shot to death at his office by Clinton D. Inabnit several days after Inabnit had been released from a psychiatric hospital. 

Alexandria is Mark’s widow and Cooley is one of the doctors who was allegedly involved with Inabnit’s treatment. Alexandria is charging that Inabnit was released while still exhibiting mental issues that should have signaled that he was not fit for release. 

“The reason a special justice is needed for this case is because (Justice Shea Nickell of Paducah) was serving on the Court of Appeals when it dealt with this case earlier. So, since he had this case while on the Court of Appeals, that means he can’t sit on it with the Supreme Court,” Roberts said of Nickell, who was elected to the 1st District Supreme Court seat in November after serving several years on the Court of Appeals. Nickell also has significant Murray ties, having resided in the community for a time during his childhood years.

Roberts said that while he knows the nature of the case, he has not been fully briefed yet. He also said he has not been told when his swearing-in ceremony will happen or when the case will be heard by the Supreme Court. 

“I received a call from someone in the governor’s office on either Jan. 27 or 28 about it. At the time, I had no idea why the governor was having a reason to look at me about this,” he said, adding that he was notified a few weeks ago that he had been chosen by the governor. “So the person asks me if I’d be interested and I said I was and I was confident in my ability.”

Roberts said he has experience with the Supreme Court, having brought 30 to 40 cases for consideration by its justices, with one of those times going so far as to have him argue a case in oral argument. He said he believes that one reason he was sought for this particular case is because his field of expertise is personal injury/workers compensation, which seems to fit the case on which he will serve.

He also said there is no guarantee he will actually sit on the bench and listen to oral arguments from the opposing sides, as there is a step that will have to be taken before this case reaches that point. 

“This case will have to go through discretionary review, which I will be part of, and that is to determine whether the case will be heard. This is required for all cases being brought to the Supreme Court from the Court of Appeals,” he said. “I still will be involved in that decision process, even if the court chooses not to hear it.”

In other words, with the appointment, Roberts officially will now go down in history as a justice with the highest court in Kentucky, He said the first people he told about the notification were his family members. 

The next person, perhaps fittingly, was someone he has known for many years, Buckingham.

“We were in court that day, so I really couldn’t go into it too much, but I did get the chance to let him know and he was happy for me, and I think he was glad to know about it,” Roberts said, adding that he has not had a chance to discuss what it is like to be a Supreme Court justice with Buckingham just yet. “But I plan on it. Judge Buckingham is someone who I very much respect for everything that he has done and I look forward to hearing from him and what he has to say, to get guidance from him will truly be something I look forward to.”

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