MURRAY -- When Kentucky 42nd Judicial Circuit Judge James T. Jameson and Murray State University Assistant Police Chief Jeff Gentry were discussing the formation of an annual conference three years ago to cover various topics of enforcing and practicing law locally, they knew one thing.
They were both hoping it would grow into a major event -- and it appears that is exactly what has happened.
The third annual Kentucky 42nd Judicial Circuit Justice Conference met this month on the Murray State University campus, and it was far and away the largest so far, attracting about 150 area officers, attorneys and judges. It also produced its strongest speaking lineup, drawing state and even federal personnel.
"It all comes down to the idea that there is a lot of value of having these people in the same room at the same time," Jameson said, explaining why, particular in his circuit that includes Calloway and Marshall counties, bringing so many sides together is so important.
"We're really busy; things have really increased on the criminal side since I became judge," he said. "We are the eighth busiest circuit in the entire commonwealth of Kentucky. That is a lot. Calloway alone has tripled and we're having to have court now twice as often as we used to."
In other words, everyone in the room is in this together. Murray State alumnus Chris McNeill is the directing attorney for the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy Office in Paducah and said that he believes every person associated with law in the area could benefit from attending a conference like this.
"It promotes cooperation, and that is needed today," said McNeill, whose office serves six counties. "Calloway is not one of the counties in our actual service area, but we do conflict cases here, so coming here can prove very valuable. This is promoted as a criminal law thing, but I think anyone who does civil law could do well to be part of this too.
"And not too many would probably think about this, but your staff people can learn a lot from something like this as well, and I found it very beneficial that they included a session that was led by clerks (Calloway Circuit Court Clerk Linda Avery and Marshall Circuit Court Clerk Tiffany Griffith) because everyone ends up dealing with them at one time or another. This has been set up very well."
The speaking lineup also included the highest-ranking judge in far-western Kentucky, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas B. Russell of Paducah, who made his first appearance at the conference and discussed ethical and legal pitfalls in federal court.
"I'm glad Judge Jameson helped put this together," Russell said. "I think it's very important and the most important part is that you not only have the law enforcement side and the attorneys and judges here, but they're actually talking with each other and that is so important in law."
The second-highest ranking judicial officer in western Kentucky also was on the campus Thursday as new Kentucky Supreme Court Justice David Buckingham of Murray was able to take time from his schedule to attend for the third year in a row.
"I think this is a great thing and Judge Jameson and Assistant Chief Gentry should both be given a lot of credit for putting it together," Buckingham said. "This is a real service for the attorneys and law enforcement because they're able to count this as educational credit, so to be able to get your credits, while you're already here and not have to drive too far? That's as good as it gets."
"Every year, the quality of this has increased and that's what Judge Jameson and I had in mind when we were talking about it," Gentry said. "It's also great to have this at Murray State and bring something like this to our campus."