City Attorney pick opens judge's seat


Rob Mattingly, Circuit Judge of the Family Court Division of the 42nd Judicial Circuit serving Marshall and Calloway Counties, submitted a letter to Governor Matt Bevin and Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton, Jr. on Sept. 23 announcing his resignation effective midnight on Nov. 3 because he has accepted the appointment as Benton's City Attorney.

According to Kentucky's Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), it will be up to a Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) to fill the vacancy by appointment since the vacancy will occur outside of the election cycle. Each commission has seven members and is comprised of the chief justice of Kentucky (who also serves as chair), two attorneys elected by all attorneys in the vacancy's jurisdiction and four non-attorney Kentucky citizens who are appointed by the governor and equally represent the two major political parties.

A JNC member must be a resident of the circuit or district he or she represents and may not hold any other public office nor hold an office in a political party or organization. JNC members serve four-year terms and are not compensated for their services but are reimbursed for expenses for the days when performing their duties.

Also according to the AOC, when a judicial vacancy occurs, the executive secretary of the JNC notifies all attorneys and the public in the affected judicial circuit or district. Those attorneys may recommend someone for the position or nominate themselves; interested attorneys are required to complete an application process.

The chief justice meets with the JNC to choose three nominees, whose names are forwarded to the governor in alphabetical order without indicating the commission's preference and the governor must appoint from that list. If the governor does not appoint a judge within 60 days of receiving the list of nominees, the appointment is made by the chief justice from the list of nominees.

Jamie Neal with the Office of Public Information at the AOC said the JNC for the judicial vacancy had not been formed as of late last week. In order to be complete, she said, the JNC will need to fill the four non-attorney Kentucky citizens seats which are appointed by the governor.

According to the Kentucky Secretary of the State's Office, the vacancy will not be reflected on the Nov. 5 ballot and depending on the number of candidates who file for the opening, could be present on the primaries ballots for 2020 elections.

In the letter of resignation, Mattingly noted it has been an honor and privilege to serve the citizens of the 42nd Judicial Circuit over the last 22 years. He will officially begin his role as Benton City Attorney effective Nov. 4.

Mattingly told The Tribune-Courier, "It's time."

"Family Court is a very complicated situation," he explained. "And the opioid epidemic has made the job more difficult. There were almost 10,000 Kentucky children in foster care in Jan., which is a record."

Mattingly said he will, in addition to serving as Benton's city attorney, return to private practice with attorneys Marty Johnson and Kip Mathis at Johnson & Mathis, PLLC in Benton. Interestingly, he said that's where his law career began in 1988.

Mattingly is an Owensboro native who, after graduating from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University in May 1988, moved to Benton a few months later to practice with Johnson.

"Marty was my mentor," he said. "He's the reason I'm in Marshall County."

At that time, Mattingly recalled, Johnson was serving as Benton's city attorney and he served as Hardin's city attorney. He said he stayed with the firm for about 19 years before he was appointed to the bench.

"I haven't been in municipal law in about 13 years but I think I'll come back pretty quickly," he said. "It's something I'm familiar with and I'm looking forward to getting back into that type of working environment and working with the city council and mayor."

Benton Mayor Rita Dotson said four attorneys submitted bids for the city attorney appointment. The city council members voted unanimously in favor of selecting Mattingly.