State's first blind judge retires, leaves powerful legacy in the court system

A beloved Jefferson County District Judge is closing his chapter on the bench. Judge David Holton founded Kentucky's first Veteran's Court five years ago.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – As a Jefferson County Judge wraps up his time on the bench, he leaves behind a legacy that will continue serving a community that desperately needs it.

For the man who's made a career out of standing up for others- the ritual welcoming him into his courtroom is especially fitting.

“All rise,” the bailiff said, the judge walked into his courtroom.

"Thank you very much," Jefferson County District Judge David Holton replied

Judge Holton's quirky demeanor has been creating a comfortable courtroom in Jefferson County for the better part of a decade.

"It’s been my honor, my distinct honor. The honor of a lifetime to do what I've done,” Holton said.

He has been in the courthouse for 28 years – first as a prosecutor and then as a judge. 

Holton has undisputedly changed the lives of thousands, but perhaps his most rewarding moments have happened in Kentucky's first ever Veteran's Court.

The judge founded Veteran's Treatment Court in 2012 with the goal of providing mental health services to veterans, while holding them accountable and helping them get back to leading productive lives.

"I encourage them when they need encouragement, I praise them when they deserve to be praised, I lock them up when I believe they need to be locked up,” Holton said.

He said he got the idea from other veteran’s court programs that were developed around the country. He has been the model for others in counties around the state.

Holton believes the veterans served us and many of the hardships they face today is a result of that. That’s why he made it his goal to create a courtroom that works to serve them.

As for the men and women whose destiny depends on his decisions, they say Holton is cherished.

"I'm proud of you brother. I love you," Holton told one of his veterans on Wednesday.

"I love you too,” that man replied.

Holton had his last veteran’s court on Wednesday afternoon. After five years of giving these veterans the second chance they deserve, the one they've earned.

He also saw them as a person before a prisoner, while never actually seeing at all.

"Justice is blind and in my courtroom, it really is,” Holton said.

Truly judging not on what he sees, but what he hears, Holton also paved a new path in the Kentucky Justice System as the state's first blind judge.

"Without my sight, my sense of hearing is perhaps more keen, you can hear things in people's voices, you can hear people smile, shay, believe it or not, you can hear people smile”, Holton said.

As he closes the chapter on his time on the bench, he does so graciously, promising a future as powerful as his past.

"That’s rather my motto when I walk into court every day- to do as much good as you can, as often as you can, for as many people as you can, for as long as you can, and now that I'm leaving the bench I still have that same mission to try and make a difference in people's lives,”, Holton said.

Judge Holton will be retiring at the end of the week. He said he will be pursuing a future in advocacy law, private practice or potentially even elected office.

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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