Retired Justice Bill Cunningham, up and down stairs: Sue Ellen Morris, Allison Whitledge, Rebecca Biehslich, Melanie Kelley, Jim Paitsel, Judge Shea Nickell, Rick Major, Judge Hunter Whitesell, Tom Bugg, Judge Tim Langford, Dennis Lortie
Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham took a last tour of the River Counties on Friday, April 12, 2019. The Judge retired at the end of 2018. In his announcement, he said after forty years in the legal profession, he is "burned out".
Judge David Buckingham was appointed by Governor Bevin to serve on the Court until someone wins the election in November 2019. Court of Appeals Judge Shea Nickell has filed for his seat.
Retired Justice Cunningham had lunch with some members of the First District Bar at The Meadows, Fulton's newest hotel. The Meadows, restored to its former glory, currently has nineteen bedrooms. There are plans to add more rooms in buildings acquired next door. The lunch group was treated to tours of the rooms and lunched in the tin ceilinged dining room. The Judge told stories, reminisced about shared acquaintances and talked cheerfully of a future in retirement.
As a parting gift, members of the Bar gave the Judge a leatherbound journal. He urged everyone there to autograph for him.
Judge Cunningham has been touring the farthest counties in his judicial district for years. This year, Circuit Judge Tim Langford accompanied them. Along the way, the judges visited high schools in the district and every courthouse. Both Judges Cunningham and Nickell are ardent historians.
Cunningham has written multiple books on Kentucky history, the first being "The Castle, the Story of a Kentucky Prison," a history of the Kentucky State Penitentiary located in Lyon, his home county. His other books include "On Bended Knees, the Night Rider Story" and "A Distant Light, Kentucky's Journey Toward Racial Justice."
Judge Cunningham won't be idle in his retirement. His son, Joe Cunningham, was elected to Congress from a district including Charleston South Carolina. The Judge visited with his son before, after and during the campaign.
While he was burned out at end of December, the Judge remains interested in legal issues. There could be some consulting on criminal cases. He also is musing on teaching some college courses.
Judge Cunningham came away from his visit with Hickman County High School seniors hopeful for the younger generation. He described students as smart and interested.
A chance to trade war stories with other lawyers and to meet voters and young people in his district may be two of the things Cunningham will miss. At right, Judge Cunningham and First District Bar Chair Allison Whitledge.
But he has multiple other interests to keep him busy and his mind sharp.