FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) -- Christopher Shea Nickell was formally sworn in as a justice of the Supreme Court of Kentucky at an investiture ceremony Wednesday at the Supreme Court chambers.
Nickell was elected in the November general election to serve the 1st Supreme Court District, consisting of 24 western Kentucky counties, defeating state Sen. Whitney Westerfield by a 57-43 percent margin.
He was officially sworn in Nov. 24 in Paducah by retired Justice Bill Cunningham. Justice Nickell was elected to fill the vacancy resulting from Justice Cunningham’s retirement in February. Justice David C. Buckingham was appointed by then-Gov. Matt Bevin to fill the vacancy until the election.
Until his election in November, Nickell spent 13 years on the Kentucky Court of Appeals. During that time, he served as chief judge pro temp, chairman of the court’s Personnel Committee and a member of the Judicial Compensation Commission.
Prior to becoming an appellate judge, Justice Nickell practiced law for 22 years. He served as a Kentucky trial attorney, an Assistant Commonwealth Attorney, an Assistant McCracken County Attorney, and a Public Advocate. He also served as an instructor at Murray State University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. In 1995, the Kentucky Bar Association named him the “Outstanding Kentucky Young Attorney.”
The McCracken County native graduated from Paducah Tilghman High School in 1977. He earned a bachelor’s degree from DePauw University in 1981, with a double major in communications and political science. In 1984, he earned his juris doctor degree from the University of Kentucky College of Law, where fellow law students elected him President of the Student Bar Association.
After taking the oath of office from Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr., During the investiture, Nickell had a message for the residents of his district and the state:
“For those who have placed their trust in me by sending me to this body, it is a high and singular honor for me to serve on the Supreme Court of Kentucky and I look forward to the challenge.”
Denise Clayton, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, served with Nickell on the Court of Appeals for a dozen years. She said Nickell was always a positive person. “It can be difficult to maintain focus when we see, as judges, so many legal issues that come before us. Issues where people’s lives are being challenged. But Shea was able to maintain that optimism.”
Since he is filling the remainder of Cunningham’s unexpired term, Nickell will be able to run for a full eight-year term in 2022.