Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Phillip Shepherd, March 29, 2018

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: We are here today with Phillip Shepherd, Chief Circuit Judge on the Flank--Franklin Circuit Court.

Segment Synopsis: Phillip Shepherd, Chief Circuit Judge on the Franklin Circuit Court, is introduced. Interviewer Anu Kasarabada gives a brief description of what the interview will cover.

00:00:34 - Growing up in Frankfort, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: So in your, uh, 2014 oral history about the Prichard Committee, um, you'd described growing up in Frankfort, and how you were often around lawyers who had interesting stories.

Segment Synopsis: Shepherd discusses growing up in Frankfort among influential lawyers and political figures. He also talks about a memorable murder trial.

Keywords: Governor Ned Breathitt; Lawyers; Methodist churches; Murder trials; Politics; Smith Broadbent; Trials

Subjects: Breathitt, Edward T., 1924-; Frankfort (Ky.); Methodist Church.

GPS: Frankfort (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.2, -84.866667
00:11:00 - University of Kentucky Law School

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Partial Transcript: So let's talk about your, uh, law school experience.

Segment Synopsis: Shepherd talks about influential professors during his time in law school at the University of Kentucky.

Keywords: Bob Lawson; Edward Prichard; Interns; Judge Edward Johnstone; Law schools; Mentors

Subjects: Law students.; Lexington (Ky.); University of Kentucky. College of Law

GPS: University of Kentucky. College of Law
Map Coordinates: 38.03665, -84.50719
00:19:51 - Getting a clerkship with Judge Edward Johnstone

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Partial Transcript: Um, I, I'd had the idea that, um, maybe the clerkship came about through Mr. Prichard.

Segment Synopsis: Shepherd discusses how he was chosen to be a clerk for Judge Johnstone and his first impressions of working with him.

Keywords: Bob Lawson; Clerkships; Edward Prichard; Federal judges; First impressions; Judge Edward Johnstone; Mentors

Subjects: Judges.; Law clerks.; Lawyers.; Paducah (Ky.); United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

GPS: Paducah (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.072222, -88.6275
00:30:46 - Life as a law clerk

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Partial Transcript: What were your responsibilities as a law clerk? Were they spelled out for you, or did you just kinda pick it up?

Segment Synopsis: Shepherd discusses his job responsibilities as a law clerk.

Keywords: Case management; Courtroom management; Federal judges; Job responsibilities; Judge Edward Johnstone; Judges; Law clerks; Lawyers; Staff relationships

Subjects: Paducah (Ky.); United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

00:51:44 - Consent decree for prison reform litigation / Prison visits

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Partial Transcript: Okay, um, let's dive right into the prison cases.

Segment Synopsis: Shepherd discusses the implementation of the 1980 Consent Decree for prison reform cases Kendrick v. Bland and Thompson v. Bland. Also discussed are Judge Johnstone's impromptu visits to the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville and the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange.

Keywords: 1980 Consent Decree; Civil rights cases; Ed Johnstone; Eddyville prison; Judge Edward Johnstone; LaGrange prison; Prison conditions; Prison guards; Unannounced prison visits

Subjects: Kentucky State Penitentiary; Kentucky State Reformatory; Kentucky. Correctional Cabinet; Prison reformers--Kentucky--LaGrange.; Prisoner reformers; Prisoners.

01:03:04 - Department of Justice interventions in prison reform cases

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Partial Transcript: The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, they were a part of the case as plaintiff-intervenors.

Segment Synopsis: Shepherd discusses the United States Department of Justice and their role as plaintiff-intervenors for the prison reform cases, specifically in Canterino v. Wilson and other challenges by women prisoners.

Keywords: Civil rights; Ed Johnstone; Intervening; John Roberts; Judge Edward Johnstone; Justice Department; Legal Aid Society Louisville; Prison conditions; Prison reforms; Women's prisons

Subjects: Civil rights.; Prison reformers.; United States. Department of Justice.; Women prisoners.

01:12:53 - Prison conditions at Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women (KCIW)

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned that this case got pretty contentious.

Segment Synopsis: Shepherd discusses the tense relationships among prisoners, staff, and guards at men's and women's prisons. He describes the effect of policies developed by Betty Kassulke, the director of the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women. Shepherd also talks about Judge Johnstone's feelings about the treatment of prisoners in general.

Keywords: Behavior modification systems; Betty Kassulke; Eddyville prison; Guard misconduct; Judge Edward Johnstone; Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women; LaGrange prison; Levels system; Prison guards; Women prison guards; Women prisons

Subjects: Kentucky State Penitentiary; Kentucky. State Reformatory.; Prison reformers--Kentucky--LaGrange.; Prisoners.; Warden; Women prisoners.

01:21:00 - Canterino v. Wilson case / Public opinion on prisons

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Partial Transcript: Going back to, uh--for the record, the, the women's case. It was Canterino versus Wilson.

Segment Synopsis: Shepherd talks about Canterino v. Wilson and Judge Johnstone's opinions about working on the case. Shepherd also discusses the significance of this case for women's civil rights in prisons, and the general public opinion on prison reform.

Keywords: Betty Kassulke; Canterino v. Women; Civil rights trials; Corrections Cabinet; Judge Edward Johnstone; Louisville (Ky.); Prison visits; Public opinions; Shelby County (Ky.); Title VII; Women's prison reform

Subjects: Kentucky. Corrections Cabinet; Louisville (Ky.); Women prisoners.

01:31:25 - Implementing the 1980 Consent Decree

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Partial Transcript: Um, getting to the consent decree in the men's cases was, you know, challenging enough but it sounds like there were parties--both parties, recognized problems and wanted to get to some--

Segment Synopsis: Shepherd talks about the implementation of the 1980 Consent Decree and Judge Johnstone's leadership style and interactions with lawyers and political figures.

Keywords: Attorney fees; Department of Corrections v. James Thompson; Judge Edward Johnstone; Lawyers; Politics

Subjects: Consent decrees; Kentucky; Prison reformers--Kentucky--LaGrange.

01:38:38 - Judge Johnstone's relationship with Governor Brown and the press

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Partial Transcript: Um, I, I read a, I read a book by one of the legal aid lawyers that represented, I believe, Thompson versus Bland.

Segment Synopsis: Shepherd discusses how Judge Johnstone communicated with Governor John Y. Brown through back-channels regarding the state's handling of the prison litigation. He describes the Judge's relationship with Governor Brown and the press. He also talks about George Wilson, the first African American Corrections Secretary in Kentucky.

Keywords: Backchannels; Correctional secretaries; Corrections; General Assembly; George Wilson; Governor John Y. Brown; Judge Edward Johnstone; Justice Cabinet; Lloyd Anderson; Newspapers; Press; Reporters; Robert Stephens

Subjects: African Americans; Consent decrees; Courier-journal (Louisville, Ky.); Journalists.; Reporters and reporting.

01:59:11 - Personal reflections on prison reform cases

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Partial Transcript: Um, is there anything else you want to say about the--either the KCIW case or, the women's or the men's prison cases?

Segment Synopsis: Shepherd talks about the dominant role of the prison reform cases during his clerkship.

Keywords: Bill Cunningham; Case management; Judge Edward Johnstone; Opinion drafts; Overcrowding; Prison guards; Prison reforms; Responsibilities; Role of the courts

Subjects: Consent decrees; Judicial discretion.

02:10:09 - Prison policies today

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Partial Transcript: Um, so, prison policy debates were at a particular point in the late seventies, early eighties, and it was really about inhumane conditions, and that's where a lot of the public law litigation was.

Segment Synopsis: Shepherd discusses incarceration rates in today's world, specifically focusing on substance abuses cases, and what we can do to improve and move forward.

Keywords: Addictions; Corrections; Criminal justice systems; Drug epidemics; Drugs; Mass incarceration; Opioid epidemics; Overcrowding; Prison policies; Prison reforms; Rehabilitation; Substance abuse cases

Subjects: Prison reformers--Kentucky--La Grange.; Prison reformers.; Substance abuse.

02:21:13 - Reminiscing about his clerkship with Judge Johnstone

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Partial Transcript: Um, I'm going to start wrapping up now.

Segment Synopsis: Shepherd talks about some of his favorite moments working for Judge Johnstone. He also shares a story about how Judge Johnstone may have come to be nominated to the District Court bench.

Keywords: Clerkship; Federal judges; Judge Edward Johnstone; Law clerks.; Merit Selection Committee; Politics; Trial judges; Western Kentucky

Subjects: Appointment to office; Louisville (Ky.); Paducah (Ky.); United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)