Judge gets out behind bench, visits district

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Judge Allison Jones isn’t simply staying behind the bench.
Jones was appointed in July to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, 6th Appellate District, Division 1 by Gov. Steve Beshear.

Since her appointment, she has been making her rounds throughout the 21-county district that includes Grant County.

Locally, Jones spent time at the Marigold Festival in Williamstown, took a tour of the Grant County Justice Center and attended the community forum on heroin use at Grant County High School.

“I really do see myself as a public servant,” Jones said sitting in the Grant County Public Library. “That’s something I’ve tried to focus on. I think sometimes judges, especially appeals judges, can tend to get a little removed because you don’t see people as much. That’s unfortunate.

That’s one of the things I have been trying to do by getting out into all of the counties and meet the people. I think you have to connect with what’s going on in the communities.”

Prior to serving on the Kentucky Court of Appeals, Jones presided over workers’ compensation claims as an administrative law judge.
She also served as a staff attorney for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky for more than five years and was a law clerk/attorney for U.S. District judge John G. Heyburn II.

“I wouldn’t say I really thought about going into the judiciary until I clerked for Judge Heyburn in federal court,” Jones said. “He was just a great judge and I really respected him. After my clerkship, I decided that if I ever had the opportunity then I think a judicial career is a route I’d want to take with my law degree.”

Jones received her undergraduate degree from Transylvania University in Lexington before going on to the University of Kentucky College of Law.
During the first few months, Jones describes the experience has positive.

She worked out of Frankfort until early September before moving into her office in Campbell County.
There are 14 Court of Appeals judges, two from each of the seven districts.
However, cases are mainly heard in three-judge panels.

Each month, a panel is given 30 cases, 10 of which Jones would take the lead as presiding judge.
Jones said she will likely hear her first oral arguments as an appeals judge in late October.

“I really want to try to bring oral arguments to as many court houses in the district,” she said. “They’re open to the public. High school classes can come in and watch. I think that’s always good for the public because they’re not as familiar with the appeals process. When you think of court, you think of a trial and you don’t think of what the appellate process is.”
One issue Jones would like to have an impact with is raising awareness of the growing epidemic of heroin abuse.
Jones said she has moved by the stories of families dealing with loved ones addicted to heroin.

“I have a great concern that individual community leaders are doing a great job, but without some real statewide support and some unified focus it can’t be fought at just the community level,” she said. “There needs to be more information sharing between the counties. You have counties and cities that are fighting it very hard, but then you have other places like Oldham County, where I’m from, where people haven’t heard about it as much. If we can get unified support, hopefully we can prevent some of those other counties from feeling the full brunt of what is an epidemic.”
In late September, Jones wrote a lengthy letter to Attorney general Jack Conway requesting that his office make the heroin epidemic a top priority by dedicating significant funding to heroin-related education, prevention, enforcement and treatment efforts.
“It affects our dockets,” Jones said. “It affects crime rates. It affects jailers who are trying to deal with inmates who are going through heroin withdrawal. I think it’s a prime example how our drug court program and diversion program can be expanded. In my view, the goal of the criminal justice system is partially to prevent repeat offenders from reentering the system and just putting heroin addicts in jail without any treatment and then letting them out is not a solution.”