Warren District Court Judge Sam Potter is retiring effective Friday, ending a career on the bench spanning nearly a quarter-century.
“After 25 years, I’ve seen some of my friends pass away, and I want to get out and enjoy the rest of my life,” Potter said Thursday.
Potter, 62, comes from a family with a rich legal history. He is the grandson and great-grandson of attorneys, his uncle Henry Potter was a former Warren County attorney and the county’s first district court judge in the present-day court system, and his cousin Brent Potter is a sitting district court judge.
The Bowling Green native graduated from the University of Kentucky with an economics degree and earned his law degree from Northern Kentucky University’s Chase College of Law.
For 12 years, Potter practiced law at his grandfather’s firm before he was elected in 1998 to a district court judgeship that was created to handle the county’s expanding caseload.
He was reelected five times without opposition and is the current chief district judge for the 8th District, which covers the county.
Potter’s current term expires next year, but he said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made for a more difficult working environment.
Emergency orders issued by the Kentucky Supreme Court to slow the spread of the virus significantly curtailed courtroom activity across the state, and judicial facilities are working now to catch up on caseloads that have continued to build up in the interim.
Some defendants who were arrested during the pandemic and released on bond in an effort to head off COVID-19 outbreaks in jails have not shown up for subsequent court dates, Potter said.
“You can’t get anything done and that gets frustrating,” Potter said.
As a district court judge, Potter presided over numerous misdemeanor and juvenile cases, felony arraignments and probable cause hearings, small claims matters and cases involving voluntary and involuntary mental commitments.
Over his time on the bench, Potter said he would make notes when something unique or unusual happened in the courtroom, storing those notes in a drawer for a possible future book.
“I always say I think I’ve seen it all until tomorrow,” Potter said.
Potter’s successor will be one of three people – Blake Beliles, Dwight Burton or Kim Geoghegan.
Beliles is a criminal defense attorney in Bowling Green who has previously been an assistant commonwealth’s attorney serving Butler, Edmonson, Hancock and Ohio counties.
Burton has a Bowling Green-based law practice focusing on criminal defense, bankruptcy and family law. Prior to being a solo practitioner, Burton was an attorney with the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy.
Geoghegan is a prosecutor who has spent the past 18 years with the Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. She has been chief deputy assistant commonwealth’s attorney since 2005.
The three were selected as nominees by the Kentucky Judicial Nominating Commission, a seven-member body consisting of Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton, two local attorneys and four non-attorneys appointed by the governor.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear will choose Potter’s successor from the list of nominees.