- Associated Press - Sunday, November 20, 2016

NEWPORT, Ky. (AP) - Newly elected Campbell County District Court Judge Cameron Blau’s 7,500 annual caseload doesn’t scare him.

Fear is saved for summer weekends spent rock climbing at Red River Gorge in eastern Kentucky.

“And the funny thing is heights scare me,” he said. “I still enjoy doing it because it allows me to conquer that fear with the security of course of a rope and a harness.”

On weekdays, district court judges see some serious and “horrific cases,” but about 10,000 cases each year are traffic cases, Blau said.

A district court judge has a chance to show the community court is not a “horrifying experience,” Blau said.

“This is not where you’re going to go to be harassed by a system that is overwhelming,” he said. “So, it’s an opportunity to give a great first impression.”

The Alexandria resident defeated four attorneys seeking the 17th District judicial seat by winning 32.6 percent of the 37,537 ballots cast Nov. 8. Campbell County’s courthouse is in Newport. Blau’s prior job as chief assistant in the Campbell County Attorney’s office put him on top of a mountain of 150,000 district court cases in the 10 years before he became a judge.

Fort Thomas attorney Joe Grimme led election night results until Alexandria area voting precinct returns arrived at the county clerk’s office to deliver Blau’s victory.

A “fourth quarter comeback” is how Blau described his election night. Blau said his mind was prepared for a loss that night.

“It just made that victory celebration all the better,” he said.

Back in June, Gov. Matt Bevin appointed Blau to fill in as district court judge for Campbell County until the election. Judge Gregory Popovich retired in March from the 17th District seat he held for 22 years amid allegations of misconduct that led to a 15-day suspension from the bench in June. Voters elected Blau to serve the remainder of Popovich’s four-year term that ends after 2018.

Blau dared not move rock climbing pictures and an oversized hand-carved gavel into his courthouse until after elections.

“I figured it was bad luck to move anything in, so now I will actually decorate,” Blau said.

Blau splits about 15,000 cases annually with Judge Karen Thomas, who oversees Campbell County’s other district courtroom. Traffic tickets, felony and misdemeanor drug charges are among cases handled by district court.

Discouraging repeat domestic violence offenders is where Blau put his emphasis since being appointed. Blau brought in a private monitoring service to work with people after being sentenced.

“Domestic violence is an issue that seems to be overshadowed by heroin and candidly a whole lot of other things,” Blau said.

Sentencing includes completing programs as part of probation, he said.

“They try to treat only the offender, and not the couple and family, to get at the underlying issue,” Blau said.

The program goes beyond basic anger management, he said.

“You want to deal with what is the cause of it and not the actual anger because there are different things that set someone off,” Blau said.

Domestic violence can create multiple court cases, he said.

“If the children are involved you’re going to have a dependency, neglect and abuse case involved with it because children have been put in a position where they could be abused,” Blau said. “So, you’ve got to deal with all the underlying issues.”

Thomas credits Blau with volunteering since June to preside over specialty courts set up to handle some drug, mental health and veterans’ cases with supervised treatment and counseling. Blau helped set up veterans’ mental health courts while working as a prosecutor.

“He has volunteered his time and energies in areas like teen court, veterans’ court and drug court,” Thomas said.

“He jumped into the idea of being a civil servant to the people of Campbell County with both feet,” Thomas said.

___

Information from: The Kentucky Enquirer, https://www.nky.com


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