Kentucky’s chief justice decides not to seek reelection in 2024

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Chief Justice Laurance B. VanMeter announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection for another term on the state Supreme Court in 2024, setting the stage for another transition at the top of the state’s judicial system at the end of next year.

VanMeter assumed the role of chief justice at the start of this year, succeeding longtime Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr., who decided not to seek reelection in 2022. VanMeter was chosen by his colleagues on the seven-member court for the role of chief justice. He will continue as the state’s chief justice for the remainder of his term.

VanMeter won election to the state’s highest court in 2016. He didn’t offer any specifics Tuesday about why he opted not to seek another eight-year term. He represents a central Kentucky district that includes Bourbon, Clark, Fayette, Franklin, Jessamine, Madison, Scott and Woodford counties.

“The greatest privileges of my professional life have been to serve the people of central Kentucky as their justice on the court for the past seven years, and to have been elected by my colleagues as chief justice,” he said in a news release. “However, the time is right for me to begin a new chapter and turn the reins over to someone else.”

VanMeter said he timed his announcement so that “any qualified judges and lawyers” can decide whether they want to launch a campaign for his seat in next year’s election.

VanMeter’s career on the bench spans nearly 30 years, having served at all four levels of Kentucky’s judiciary — as a district and circuit judge in Fayette County, as well as on the state Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. He became just the third person to have held office at all four levels and is the only one of those to have served as chief justice, according to the state Administrative Office of the Courts.

As for the remainder of his own Supreme Court term, VanMeter said: “I will honor the trust reposed on me by finishing this term dedicated fully to the judicial process for the people of Kentucky.”

VanMeter’s Supreme Court district is the only one scheduled to have an election in 2024.