Retiring Todd judge has hope in future of justice for 7th circuit

After he graduated from college, Tyler L. Gill spent a year building grain bins.

"I basically operated on a 'just to do the best I could every day' basis," said Circuit Court Judge Gill, who will officially hang up his robe at the close of business July 31, retiring after serving 24 years as a circuit judge for Todd and Logan counties.

As a young man, Gill decided he'd had enough of grain bins.

He began practicing law with his father, Charles Gill Jr., in Elkton and continued to practice with the older Gill for nine years from 1984 to 1993. Then, a district judge post came open, and the younger Gill saw a need. His opposition quit.

"The sitting judge resigned before the election," Gill said.

He went on to serve two years as district judge for Todd and Logan counties before beginning a stint as circuit court judge that lasted more than two decades.

In a news release that Gill sent out in anticipation of his retirement, he mused about becoming a judge, something he said surprised himself as well as others.

"Without deserving it," he wrote in the release, "and for reasons I do not fully understand, I was, and continue to be, blessed. Now 26 of the best years of my life have passed, and I have enjoyed almost every day."

A native of Hopkinsville, Gill grew up in Allensville and Todd County. He is a 1976 graduate of Todd County Central High School in Elkton and received a degree in history and political science from Western Kentucky University in 1980.

Four years later, he graduated law school at the University of Kentucky.

Asked about the high points of his tenure in the courtroom, Gill readily mentioned his 12 law clerks and said he is proud of all of them.

Seven are lawyers in the 7th Judicial Circuit, including Neil Kerr, the commonwealth's attorney for Logan and Todd counties; Kentucky State Rep. Jason Petrie; Logan County Attorney Joe Ross; Elizabeth Teel, an assistant Logan County attorney and the city attorney for Russellville; Lora Lee Robey, an assistant county attorney and assistant commonwealth's attorney; Mary Orange, circuit clerk in Logan County; and Ashley Farmer, an assistant commonwealth's attorney.

The remaining five, Gill said, are practicing elsewhere in the state.

"We've got a really good team," noted the judge, who described the overall quality of the justice system in the 7th circuit as second to none. "(Our) attorneys in Logan and Todd have an exceptional level of competence."

Gill said he is confident about the people who make the 7th Judicial Circuit system work and confident that the community will continue to support it.

"And so I have great hope for our future," he said.

Earlier this year, Gill was one of three nominees to fill the District 1 seat on the Kentucky Supreme Court that was left vacant with the retirement of Justice Bill Cunningham; Governor Matt Bevin appointed David Buckingham to fill that post.

Gill also recalled that two justice centers, one in Todd County and one in Logan, were built during his time as a circuit judge, and he was a part of those efforts.

He noted that he will miss those individuals that he described in his news release as "the meek and downtrodden caught up in the system.

"Those in jail," he continued. "Those struggling with family, divorce, addiction, mental illness and those who had no family to prepare them for life."

The judge said people unfamiliar with the system tend to think only bad people wind up in jail or in court, but he said that's not so.

"Few and far between are the mean, dangerous, arrogant, utterly selfish types of whom we should be afraid and who must be separated from the rest of us," he explained in the release. "These take too much of our attention.

"Most are not what the public imagines," he added. "Many are indeed flawed, some more than the rest of us. But without direct evil intent to harm others."

The judge noted that many people he's seen through the years are remarkable in character and are honest, strong, loyal and "just plain likable," he said.

They require and deserve patience, understanding, compassion and a tough love, he observed, noting that lessons can be learned from such individuals.

He said his own days as a circuit judge brought lessons taught by experts on government, law, history, philosophy, psychiatry, logic, ethics, drama and human nature.

"I never planned to be a judge," Gill said. "But I've been given a lot of opportunities. It's been a wonderful experience. (I've) been very blessed."

A retirement reception honoring Gill for his years of service is slated for 2 to 4 p.m. July 30 in the circuit courtroom of the Logan County Court of Justice, 329 W. Fourth St., Russellville.

The event is open to the public and is being hosted by active members of the Logan/Todd County Bar Association.

Logan County Attorney Joe Ross and Joe Hendricks, a Russellville attorney, have announced that they will be seeking to fill the vacancy created by Gill's retirement.

Leigh Anne Hiatt, a public information officer with the Administrative Office of the Courts in Frankfort, said the circuit court vacancy will be filled by election in November and will be covered by retired judges until that time.

Gill lives with his wife Sylvia Gill and daughter Emilie Gill in Allensville.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

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