In a historic appointment, Governor Steve Beshear has named Court of Appeals Judge Michelle M. Keller of Fort Mitchell to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
The appointment increases the number of women on the state's highest court to three. It is the first time the state Supreme Court has had three female justices on the bench.
Keller replaces Justice Wil Schroder, who resigned January 17 due to health reasons.
In a statement, Keller says her appointment is bittersweet.
"I have the deepest respect and fondness for Justice Wil Schroder. Therefore, this is a bittersweet moment for me," she said. "I am very grateful to Gov. Beshear and I am humbled by his confidence, as well as the confidence and support of so many people in my district and beyond. I will work hard to provide justice to my fellow Kentuckians and continue the fine legacy of Justice Schroder."
The Northern Kentucky resident will represent that region on the state Supreme Court and will have to run for re-election in 2014.
Jason Nemes, a lawyer who has tried cases before the court, says Keller is a perfect pick.
"You cannot categorize her as being friendly to plaintiffs, friendly to defendants, friendly to criminals or the state or business. She is a fair judge right down the middle and exactly what a justice ought to be, " he says.
Keller joins justices Mary Noble and Lisbeth Hughes Abramson as the historic three women justices on the state Supreme Court. Her appointment makes Keller the fifth woman to be seated on the court.
University of Louisville law professor Samuel Marcosson says Beshear's pick of Keller was likely based on a variety of factors, including her experience, the rise of women in law and diversity.
"And that he's also concerned about and values the need for a great deal of diversity on Kentucky's highest court," he says.
A replacement for Keller on the Court of Appeals will also be appointed by Beshear at a future date, after a nominating commission gives the governor three names to chose from.