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Anti-abortion legislator files for Ky. Supreme Court seat

Joe Fischer.
Kentucky General Assembly.
Joe Fischer.

One of the top anti-abortion advocates in the Kentucky legislature is running for a state Supreme Court seat.

Republican Rep. Joe Fischer filed paperwork to run for the high court’s Sixth District, which includes a swath of northern Kentucky from Oldham to Lewis counties.

Fischer lives in Ft. Thomas, in Campbell County. In a statement, he said his career as an attorney and legislator gives him a unique perspective on the court system’s needs.

“After spending over two decades in the legislature advocating for common sense conservative values, I have decided to seek election to Kentucky’s highest court,” Fischer said. “If elected, I will continue defending the rule of law and will support measures to ensure our judicial system effectively serves all citizens of our Commonwealth.”

First elected in 1998, Fischer has sponsored a long list of abortion restrictions and chaired the House Judiciary Committee after Republicans took over. Before he was in the legislature, he was a member of the Ft. Thomas city council.

Fischer sponsored the so-called “trigger law” in 2019 that seeks to automatically make abortion illegal in Kentucky if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade decision, which bans states from restricting abortions before the point of viability.

He proposed an anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution that Kentuckians will weigh in on during next year’s general election. If approved by voters, it will add language saying that nothing in the constitution “shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion.”

And over the summer he sponsored a bill that he said would ban critical race theory from being taught in Kentucky schools, but instead prohibits teachers from engaging with concepts that make students “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.”

Kentucky Supreme Court justices have eight-year terms and are elected in nonpartisan races,though a 2016 court ruling now allows candidates to identify themselves as members of a political party.

The seat is currently held by Justice Michelle Keller, who was appointed to the seat by former Gov. Steve Beshear in 2013 and then elected to her current term in 2014. She filed for reelection last month.

Four of the seven seats on the Kentucky Supreme Court will be up for election next year, including the one held by Chief Justice John Minton,who will retire after his current term.

Kentucky Republicans have railed against the state Supreme Court in recent years after rulings striking down laws that passed out of the newly-GOP legislature like the pension “sewer bill” and medical review panels in 2018 and Marsy’s Law in 2019.

The court also initially upheld Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s powers to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, despite Republican opposition. But then the legislature passed laws tweaking Beshear’s powers earlier this year, and the court ruled in lawmakers’ favor following another lawsuit.

Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield ran for the high court in 2019, but was defeated by current Justice Christopher Shea Nickell.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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