Sunday, May 16, 1999

Bertelsman wants local successor

N.Ky. lawyers thinking ahead

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Federal judge William Bertelsman isn't seeking semi-retirement until 2001, but the need to appoint another Northern Kentuckian as his successor is on the minds of area attorneys.

        There has been no organized effort, yet many agree that they'll soon approach U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning to make sure the Republicans consider the benefits of having another Northern Kentuckian take Judge Bertelsman's place.

        An appointment from the region, they say, will help guarantee that the next federal judge focuses on the work here and keeps federal cases moving through the system.

        Working with Kentucky's U.S. senators will be important since they are bound to suggest an appointment to the next president.

        “Of its nature, it's a political process,” said Judge Bertelsman, a 63-year-old Republican who actually was appointed as Northern Kentucky's first federal judge by Democratic President Carter.

        The former Fort Thomas attorney and son of a Campbell County judge was sworn in in 1979. He announced his plans to seek senior status to a gathering of attorneys earlier this year.

        “He gave some very encouraging words and some very wise words,” recalled Covington attorney Beverly Storm. “He rallied the troops to try to make sure his replacement is a Northern Ken tuckian.”

        Judge Bertelsman believes it will take until 2005 for his successor to be appointed. Until then, he said, contact with Kentucky's senators in Washington, D.C., is important because of the way appointments are made.

        He wants someone from Northern Kentucky to succeed him because someone appointed from Louisville or Lexington might choose to commute from that area and spend less time — perhaps two weeks a month — in the U.S. District Courthouse in Covington.

        That certainly could slow down the docket here, where hundreds of federal lawsuits are filed each year, he said.

        Covington attorney Philip Taliaferro also acknowledged a potential problem if the appointment came from outside the area.

        “People in Northern Kentucky want someone from Northern Kentucky to be appointed,” he said, noting that “a federal judge spends more time being a judge” when transportation issues aren't involved.

        But where the region's next federal judge hails from isn't the only concern of Northern Kentucky's litigators. They also want that next judge, who will be appointed for life, to be similar to Judge Bertelsman in other respects.

        If the next appointment “is not a person of high intellect and moral integrity, we could have a nightmare in the federal justice system for a very long time,” Covington attorney Bob Sanders said.


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