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Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham is stepping down on Feb. 1 after 12 years

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham announced this week that he will step down from the high court Feb. 1.

Cunningham has served 12 years on that court, having been elected to represent the First Supreme Court District representing western Kentucky in November of 2006, then was re-elected in 2014. He and Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr., are the two longest-serving members of the Court.

Justice Bill Cunningham

In making the announcement, Cunningham, 74, said, “Sometimes duty requires us to go on. Sometimes duty requires us to go home. The most important part of being anywhere is knowing when to leave.”

His departure from the state’s highest tribunal closes out a career of over 40 years in public office.

Before beginning his judicial career, Cunningham was Eddyville City Attorney from 1974 to 1991 and public defender for the Kentucky State Penitentiary from 1974-76.

He served as Commonwealth’s Attorney for the 56th Judicial District, consisting of Caldwell, Livingston, Lyon and Trigg counties from 1976 to 1988. During that time, Cunningham was voted the Outstanding Commonwealth’s Attorney of Kentucky by his peers.

From 1992 until joining the Supreme Court in 2007, Cunningham was a circuit judge for the 56th Judicial Circuit.

He was also a hearing officer for the Kentucky Board of Claims from 1981-85 and a trial commissioner for the Lyon County District Court from 1989 to 1992.

Cunningham earned his bachelor’s degree from Murray State University in 1962 and his juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1969.

He is also a U.S. Army veteran, having served in Germany, Korea, and Vietnam.

Cunningham and his wife, Paula, reside in Kuttawa. They have five sons and 15 grandchildren. Their son Joe was elected to Congress from South Carolina’s First District in November, becoming the first Democrat to hold that seat since the 1970s.

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