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November 11, 2016

The University of Kentucky College of Law hosted Associate Justice Michelle Keller of the Kentucky Supreme Court on October 26 as part of UK Law’s 2016-17 Judicial Conversation Series.

Justice Keller was appointed to the Kentucky Supreme Court in April 2013 by Governor Steve Beshear. She was elected to a full eight-year term on the bench in November 2014. She is also the chairwoman of the court system’s Kentucky Access to Justice Commission.

Joined by Chief Judge Jennifer B. Coffman, who served as moderator, Justice Keller began the open forum in the UK Law Courtroom by addressing the importance of having a mentor and the impact of giving back. As the first in her family to attend law school, she credits her success to her great mentors. She conveyed to students that having a mentor throughout life is crucial, noting that her motivation to give back stems from the mentoring she has received. “You get back ten-fold what you give,” said Justice Keller.

For those students interested in public service, she suggested taking advantage of the opportunities within UK Law’s Legal Clinic. Her sage advice didn’t stop there. Laughter filled the courtroom when Justice Keller shared a personal story about a cow milking competition in Henry County. While running for office, she agreed to participate in the contest, even though it was out of her comfort zone. Despite all odds, she defeated her opponent and prevailed.

"You can take your job seriously, but you don’t have to take yourself too seriously,” Justice Keller said.

Next, Justice Keller discussed her experiences on the bench. She talked about making difficult decisions, treating everyone in the courtroom with respect, and addressing conflicts with attorneys. She explained that serving on the Kentucky Supreme Court is not just a job, but a way of life, and that a law student’s behavior will be scrutinized from this point forward. She explained this wasn’t bad, as it results in the best quality of people representing the law profession. She went on to emphasize the importance of lawyers and judges serving as leaders in their respective areas.

Justice Keller wrapped up the conversation by answering intriguing questions from students in attendance. In conjunction with her visit, she served as guest lecturer earlier in the day for Professor Mary Davis’ Torts class. The series will continue in spring 2017 with Judge Curtis Lynn Collier of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

Dean Brennen initiated the UK Law’s Judicial Conversation Series in 2012. The purpose of the series is to provide thoughtful and engaging interactions between distinguished members of the judiciary and law students. Previous speakers have included Kentucky Supreme Court Justices Minton (Chief), Abramson, Cunningham, Noble, Scott and Venters; U.S. Tax Court Judge Joseph Goeke; U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Eastern District of Kentucky Judge Tracey Wise (Chief), Judge Roger L. Gregory, 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and Senior District Judge Thomas B. Russell.