• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Woodford circuit judge to retire after 18 years on bench

For the last 18 years, Paul Isaacs has served the people of Woodford, Bourbon and Scott counties as circuit judge. He now wants to move on to the next chapter of his life and will retire next month.

“My wife and I want to have a little bit more flexibility – enjoy traveling and doing some things that my schedule (as a judge) prevents us from doing,” said Isaacs last week.

The Scott County resident will officially retire on Feb. 2, but said he will serve as a special judge in this judicial circuit until Gov. Matt Bevin appoints a successor to finish his term, which expires in 2023.

“Until they get a new judge,” said Isaacs, 74, “it’s not going to look a whole lot different because I’m going to be around on a lot of the regular motion hour dockets,” including the Woodford Circuit Court rule day on Wednesday, Feb. 7.

“They have to treat me nice because I’m special,” joked Isaacs, who also plans to continue overseeing Drug Court cases until a successor has been named, “because I don’t want to leave those people just sort of abandoned because I think (what) that (program provides) is too important.”

Looking back on his career, Isaacs said every decision a circuit judge makes in a criminal or civil case has a lasting effect on the people in front of him and their lives. “So you need to be cognizant of that,” he said. “These decisions have real life consequences for real life people. And so you want to make sure that you apply the law correctly – in a fair and just manner; and that you treat everyone that comes in front of you with the respect that they deserve…”

Whether they were the attorneys and clerks in his courtroom or those he worked alongside in Drug Court, Isaacs said, “The people will be what I’ll miss most” about not being on the bench.

Before beginning his tenure as a circuit judge for Woodford, Bourbon and Scott counties in 2000, Isaacs was director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, commissioner of the Kentucky State Police and secretary of the Kentucky Justice Cabinet.

“It’s just an amazing breadth of experience that he brought to the bench,” said Commonwealth Attorney Gordie Shaw. “And his sense of fairness … He was always trying to see if there was a way to turn a defendant around, which I believe is one of the reasons for his effort and time that he spent developing and presiding in Drug Court.”

There has never been a judge that Shaw said he agrees with 100 percent of the time, “but with Judge Isaacs, I always knew that his decision was based on what he thought was the right thing to do in that case.”

Isaacs, who graduated from the UK College of Law after earning a bachelor’s degree at Union College, and his wife, Anna, will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in May.

“We have a place in Florida,” said Isaacs. “(Retirement) gives us some time to spend a little bit more time down there.”

“I’m not moving to Florida,” he continued. “I could never leave Kentucky. Kentucky’s my home. It’ll always be my home.”

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