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Justice Keller Named KBA's 2020 Distinguished Judge Award


Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Michelle Keller is the recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Judge Award by the Kentucky Bar Association (KBA).

The annual banquet where the award would have been presented was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The KBA is working to reschedule it, a news release said.

The award is presented to any judge who has distinguished himself or herself through a contribution of outstanding service to the legal profession. The selection process places special emphasis upon community, civic and/or charitable service, which brings honor to the profession.  

“Justice Keller embodies sound decision making, balanced thought, judicial temperament, accessibility, and professional courtesy," said KBA President J. Stephen Smith. "I am extremely proud that she is our 6th District justice. Her leadership of the Access to Justice Commission is a benefit to all Kentuckians, and just one example of Justice Keller's tireless efforts to improve the justice system in Kentucky.”  

Justice Keller was appointed to the Supreme Court of Kentucky in April 2013 by Governor Steve Beshear and was subsequently elected to a full eight-year term on the Court in November 2014. She currently serves as the chair of the Access to Justice Commission and Criminal Rules Committee. 

Justice Keller was elected to the Court of Appeals in November 2006, where she served until her appointment to the Supreme Court. Prior to her election to the Court of Appeals, Justice Keller practiced law for 17 years, during which she served as an assistant county attorney and worked in private practice. Her private practice concentrated in the areas of medical negligence defense, administrative law, personal injury, and family law. 

Justice Keller attended Northern Kentucky University’s Salmon P. Chase College of Law while working as a licensed registered nurse in critical care. 

She has received numerous awards, among them a 2012 Outstanding Woman of Northern Kentucky honoree; both the Chase Excellence and Chase Exceptional Service Awards in 2007 and 2011 respectively; and was the first woman presented with the Distinguished Lawyer of the Year Award by the Northern Kentucky Bar Association.  

A lifelong Northern Kentuckian, Justice Keller and her husband, Jim, a physician, are the parents of two daughters, Brenna and Olivia. 

-Staff report