Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Charles R. Simpson, III, June 14, 2018

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

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Partial Transcript: Okay. This is the second oral history interview with Charles Simpson III, Senior District Court Judge for the Western District Court of Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Senior District Court Judge for the Western District Court of Kentucky, Charles Simpson III, is introduced and topics from the first interview are reviewed.

00:01:08 - Investiture ceremony

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Partial Transcript: You, um, you were confirmed on, I think, August 4th.

Segment Synopsis: Simpson talks about how he came to know about his judicial confirmation by the U.S. Senate. He held off taking his oath-of-office in order to wrap up his work as a bankruptcy trustee. Simpson then discusses how his swearing-in ceremony took after place he concluded his bankruptcy cases.

Keywords: Bankruptcy cases; Delays; Investiture ceremonies; Oath of office; Swearing-in

Subjects: Bankruptcy trustees.; Judges--Selection and appointment--United States.; United States. Congress. Senate.; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

00:09:50 - Early years as a district court judge

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Partial Transcript: I had a chambers, uh, in the Owensboro courthouse, but I wasn't, uh, living in Owensboro.

Segment Synopsis: Simpson discusses his early years as a District Court Judge, including the challenges of being stationed in Owensboro while living in Louisville.

Keywords: Court dockets; Duty stations; Judge Johnstone; Judge Meredith

Subjects: Court calendars; Ford, Wendell H., 1924-2015; Judges--United States; Louisville (Ky.); Owensboro (Ky.); Paducah (Ky.); Per diem allowances

GPS: Owensboro Federal Courthouse
Map Coordinates: 37.771798, -87.11299
00:19:40 - Working with other district court judges

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Partial Transcript: Well I wanna stay on those early years for a bit and just get a sense of what your memories are of the judges back then.

Segment Synopsis: Simpson discusses some of the judges he worked with when he first became a district court judge.

Keywords: Dockets; Judge Allen; Judge Ballantine; Judge Gordon; Judge Johnstone; Judge Meredith; Judge Siler; Magistrate judges; Senior status

Subjects: District courts--United States.; Judges--United States; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

00:25:27 - First case as a district court judge

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Partial Transcript: So as soon as I went on the bench, um, Judge Johnstone handed off a bunch of cases in Paducah, including one that was set for trial within like two or three weeks after I took the oath.

Segment Synopsis: Simpson talks about the first trial he presided over and the advice that Judge Ballantine gave him before the trial began.

Keywords: Advice; Civil cases; Condemned land; Judge Ballantine; Lawsuits

Subjects: Actions and defenses.; Judges--United States; Livingston County (Ky.); Paducah (Ky.); United States. District Court. (Kentucky : Western District)

GPS: Paducah Federal Courthouse
Map Coordinates: 37.086192, -88.599702
00:28:53 - Preparing to be a judge

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Partial Transcript: How did you--you know, you were--you, you really hit the ground running.

Segment Synopsis: Simpson talks about transitioning from being a private attorney and bankruptcy trustee to the federal judgeship.

Keywords: "Baby judge school"; Bench trials; Judge Meredith; Jury trials; Scripts

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

00:32:32 - Court dockets

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Partial Transcript: What were your, uh--what was your docket like at the time?

Segment Synopsis: Simpson explains his caseload when he first became a district judge.

Keywords: Court dockets; Judge Ballantine; Judge Johnstone; Judge Meredith

Subjects: Judges--United States; Louisville (Ky.); Owensboro (Ky.); United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

00:34:52 - Magistrate judges

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Partial Transcript: Um, you'd mentioned bankruptcy judges. Um, were there also magistrate judges at the time? How often did you see them, interact with them?

Segment Synopsis: Simpson talks about his interactions with magistrate judges and how the role of a magistrate judge changed over the years.

Keywords: Civil cases; Jury pool; Magistrate judges; Mediation; Part-time magistrates; Settlements

Subjects: Dispute resolution (Law); Judges--United States; Jury.; United States. District Court. (Kentucky : Western District)

00:49:31 - Case assignments

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Partial Transcript: Um, going back to those early years, how were cases assigned?

Segment Synopsis: Simpson discusses how cases were assigned to judges when he first joined the bench.

Keywords: Case assignments; Dockets; Randomized assignments

Subjects: Judges--United States.; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

00:52:35 - Case calendars

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Partial Transcript: What about, uh, the calendar? Was that managed in generally the same way?

Segment Synopsis: Simpson talks about how he managed his case calendar when he first started and how he manages his calendar now.

Keywords: Court calendars; Courtroom deputies; Dockets; Law clerks; Senior status

Subjects: Judges--United States.; Secretaries.; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

00:57:23 - United States v. Sypher

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Partial Transcript: You'd mentioned your, your first case, um, when you joined the court. Um, are there other cases from the early years that stick out to you, that still stand out for one reason or another?

Segment Synopsis: Simpson talks about one of his most notable cases, United States v. Sypher, in which a jury convicted Karen Sypher of six counts of criminal conduct arising from her efforts to extort University of Louisville's head basketball coach Rick Pitino.

Keywords: Karen Sypher; Lawsuits; Pitino Sypher case

Subjects: Judges--United States.; Pitino, Rick.; Publicity.; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

01:01:32 - Self-igniting coal lawsuit

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Partial Transcript: I had some other cases that were, that were kind of interesting and fun.

Segment Synopsis: Simpson discusses his efforts to encourage resolution in a case between the Pritzker family and Robert Green, a coal operator in Western Kentucky. The litigation involved self-igniting coal.

Keywords: Breach-of-contract; Lawsuits; Pritzker family; Robert Green; Self-igniting coal

Subjects: Actions and defenses.; Judges--United States; Jury.; Lawyers.; Louisville (Ky.); United States. District Court. (Kentucky : Western District)

01:12:06 - Other notable cases / Car accident

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Partial Transcript: I, I had one--in, in--one case--one time when I was trying two cases at once.

Segment Synopsis: Simpson talks about juggling two cases between Louisville and Paducah and getting in a car accident on his way to Paducah.

Keywords: Judge Johnstone

Subjects: Deer; Gambling.; Judges--United States; Louisville (Ky.); Paducah (Ky.); Traffic accidents.; United States. District Court. (Kentucky : Western District)

01:16:14 - Becoming chief judge

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Partial Transcript: You became chief judge.

Segment Synopsis: Simpson talks about the circumstances that led to him becoming chief judge in December 1994.

Keywords: Chief judges; Judge Ballantine; Judge Johnstone; Judge Meredith

Subjects: Cancer.; Judges--United States.; United States. District Court (Kentucky : Western District)

01:22:26 - Serving as chief judge

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Partial Transcript: But, um, I believe I became chief judge on December first of 1994.

Segment Synopsis: Simpson talks about the seven years he spent serving as chief judge.

Keywords: 100th anniversary; Court meetings; Court retreats; Judge Ballantine; Judge Johnstone

Subjects: Judges--United States; United States. District Court. (Kentucky : Western District)

01:34:35 - District judges and bankruptcy judges

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Partial Transcript: Uh, the other thing we did when I was chief judge, and we still do, is I began involving the magistrate judges in this.

Segment Synopsis: Simpson discusses the distinct roles of bankruptcy judges and district court judges.

Keywords: Bankruptcy cases; Bankruptcy judges; Chief judges; Court meetings; Magistrate judges

Subjects: Judges--United States; United States. District Court. (Kentucky : Western District)

01:41:30 - Culture of the Western District Court

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Partial Transcript: And so, our effort over time has been to make a good quality of life, a collegial atmosphere.

Segment Synopsis: Simpson talks about the culture and relationships of the Western District Court.

Keywords: Chief judges; Relationships; Votes

Subjects: Judges--United States; United States. District Court. (Kentucky : Western District); Voting.

01:44:51 - Relationships with related court organizations

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Partial Transcript: Okay. You had mentioned, you know, part of your meetings might be about managing relationships with other entities of the court.

Segment Synopsis: Simpson discusses how the Court interacts with the United States Attorney's Office, the local bar, and other organizations connected to the Court.

Keywords: Chief judges; Implementing programs; Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); Relationships; State courts; Veterans courts

Subjects: Judges--United States; Outreach; Post-traumatic stress disorder.; Probation officers; United States Attorney's Office.; United States. District Court. (Kentucky : Western District)