Local Bowling Green members of the bar association gathered in the Capitol Arts Center Friday morning to celebrate the power of law and public service for the 59th annual observance of Law Day.
The ceremony included awards presented to community public servants that have left an impact on the community. The William H. Natcher Award was presented by J. Richard Downey, Warren Circuit Court Judge, to the family of the late Bill Haynes. Downey referred to Haynes as one of the most respected congressmen in the country.
Downey said Haynes had “courage under-fire” professionally, while serving in Vietnam, throughout his life and in the face of death. Downey said Haynes received the award for his traits of humility and public service.
The Gwyneth Davis Outstanding Public Service Award was presented by Frank Hampton Moore to the wife of Chief Justice John Minton Jr., who could not attend due to a previous engagement. Moore outlined Minton’s numerous state and national accomplishments. Moore said the award was made for Minton, and Minton was made for the community.
The Pro-Bono Publico Award was presented by Sarah Capps Hayes, a Kentucky legal aid, to Rebecca Adams Simpson, a local lawyer. Hayes said this award celebrates the work Simpson has done for the community and specifically the impoverished population of Warren County.
This year’s national theme for Law Day was the 14th Amendment, which includes clauses on citizenship, due process and equal protection. Guest speaker, Attorney general Andy Beshear was present to comment on the significance and role of the Amendment.
“Law is the cornerstone, the true pillar that our society and the United States is built on,” Beshear said.
Beshear said it was an honor to serve as Attorney General because it has shown him how powerful the law is and how it can be better to improve the world. He said he decided to run for Attorney General because it presented him with an opportunity to use the power of the law to protect not only his two children, but the children and families of the state.
When discussing the different things the Attorney General’s office has achieved Beshear explained that the success came from treating the position not as a job, but as a mission. He broke down the office’s mission into four parts of preventing and prosecuting child abuse, protection senior citizens, seeking justice for sexual assault victim and finding alternative solutions for the drug epidemic.
“It’s more than doing good, it’s securing justice,” Beshear said.
Beshear explained how they have been able to accomplish a lot within the last 16 months of his time in office because of the law, community and the tools both provides.
Beshear explained the state’s pivotal role in developing citizens rights under the 14th Amendment. He cited Justice John Marshall Harlan’s work with the Plessy v. Ferguson case as an example of how Kentucky has been influential in the expansion of civil rights.
Beshear explained that Harlan was the first justice to recognize that the constitution and the rights that come with it, are applicable to all citizens and referred to the constitution as color blind.
“We stood as a leader,” Beshear said, “we are the home to brave Kentuckians that have fought the atrocities of discrimination.”
Beshear urged attendees to reflect on the state and nation’s current position on social and civil issues. He said Law Day should be a day to analyze the constitution and what led to the 14th amendment
Beshear explained that the 14th amendment helps him to fight for what is right and also gives him hope for a better, more inclusive future.
On another matter, Beshear said he was pleased after Judge Wilson’s Monday’s decision to deny WKU’s motion to stall the lawsuit WKU has filed against the College Heights Herald. The lawsuit was filed after Beshear ruled that WKU had violated Kentucky’s Open Records Act by denying the records to the Herald, and also by refusing to allow the attorney general’s office to review the records.
Beshear said it was important to enforce a level of transparency while still protecting the identity of the victims in an effort to make sure that employee sexual misconduct cases are being handled properly. Beshear explained he wants to avoid employees that were found to have assaulted other employees or students being able to move freely to another campus and put future students at risk.
Beshear explained that there are three cases of open records violations at college universities, these institutions being UK, WKU and KSU. During Monday’s hearing, WKU argued that the the UK and WKU cases are almost identical, and the results of the UK case could be used as a precedent by WKU.
Beshear said the cases are entirely different. He explained that the UK case involves a single professor while the WKU case involved records of employee sexual misconduct since 2013. Beshear said the time frame includes over 20 incidents which are all unique. Beshear explained these cases at both WKU and UK need to be handled in a timely manner to prevent further victims .
“These are horrific cases in which victims have suffered trauma, which means we have to ensure that the investigation is done properly,” Beshear said.
Beshear said he hopes for an appellate ruling that enforces accountability on how universities handle employee sexual misconduct cases in the future.
Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]