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Robinson Scholars Hosted by Appeals Court Judge Sara Combs

Several Robinson Scholars recently visited Kentucky Appeals Court Justice Sara Combs, where they were dinner guests at her home and got to discuss a range of issues from the nature of the Appeals Court to the legacy of her late husband, former Gov. Bert T. Combs.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals has 14 members, seven who are elected and seven who are appointed. The court hears a variety of cases that are appealed from lower courts. Judge Combs explained that one of the aspects of the Appeals Court that she values is that it is something available to anyone, regardless of socio-economic status.

“It can be very expensive to move a case to the Supreme Court, but anyone who is unhappy with a lower court decision can seek a decision from the Court of Appeals,” she said.

Justice Combs has served on the Appeals Court since 1994, including a time as Chief of the Appeals Court from 2004-10.  She was the first woman to become chief judge of the Court of Appeals and also the first person from eastern Kentucky to serve in that capacity. She was chief judge from 2004-2010. She was also the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of Kentucky.

Judge Combs was reelected in November 2014 to serve in the 7th Appellate District, comprising 22 counties in eastern Kentucky, many of which are part of the Robinson Scholars service region.

Judge Combs told Robinson Scholars about the extensive public serve of Gov. Combs, whose legacy reflects not only his eastern Kentucky roots but also his progressive accomplishments during his 1959-63 term.

During their visit to her home in Powell County, Robinson Scholars got to see memorabilia from Gov. Combs’ career such as a collection of galley proofs from famed Louisville Courier-Journal editorial cartoonist Hugh Haney, who said that Combs was one of his favorite subjects.

Some of the career accomplishments of Gov. Combs, a native of Clay County and UK Law School graduate, included chief of the war crimes investigation unit in the Philippines after WWII, and appointment to the U.S. Sixth Court of Appeals after his term as governor of Kentucky.

The impact of Combs’ gubernatorial legacy remains, from highly recognized installations such as the Floral Clock at the state capital to construction of the Mountain Parkway, which bears his name. He was also known for his crackdowns on public corruption and establishment of the merit system to protect state employees.

Perhaps one of the most far reaching but lesser known decisions during Combs administration was his executive order to integrate all buildings under state control or those affected by state government.

Judge Combs explained that the governor used his powers as the state’s chief executive to move efforts toward racial equality forward. The order was far reaching because in addition to state-owned buildings it also included any businesses licensed by the state such as restaurants, which are governed by public health laws. This action was acknowledged by President John F. Kennedy in a personal letter to Gov. Combs.

Robinson Scholars with Judge Combs