Jurists Mourn Passing Of Kentucky Legal Icon

Jul 5, 2017

Former chief justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court John S. Palmore has died. The long-serving justice is being remembered as a towering figure in Kentucky law.

Born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1917, Palmore attended high school in Bowling Green and landed a job at a Henderson law firm out of college, later putting his career on hold to volunteer with the Navy during World War II. After returning, Palmore worked his way up to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, followed by the Supreme Court.

Current Chief Justice and friend John D. Minton tells the Lexington Herald-Leader, in addition to being a “masterful storyteller with a vivid memory for details,” Palmore helped implement judicial reforms in the mid-1970s as the state transitioned to a more modern court system.

In a 2007 University of Kentucky oral history interview, the influential jurist said he recommended a hands-off approach for the court at the time, to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

"I did not have any role in bringing about the (constitutional) amendment," he explained. "I thought that the court really should stay out of that. Some of them did get active in it."

Palmore left his mark on Kentucky law by chairing the commission that drafted the state’s penal code and publishing a jury manual still used by trial judges today.

He passed away on July 4th at the age of 99.