Mary Jude Wolford
My family has lived in Louisville for generations. I am the youngest of 7 children—part of a big Catholic family. My parents both grew up in the Portland neighborhood of Louisville, where my mom was one of 15 children, and my dad was one of 5. My parents were firm believers in Catholic education, and though they were not a wealthy family, they prioritized sending all 7 of us to Catholic school.
I have been married for over 30 years to
Will Wolford, and we have three fabulous daughters, Grace, Lauren, and Bridget.
Our “girls” are not girls anymore, but capable and successful women. I am immensely proud of each of them! My husband, Will, is my rock. He has been my biggest cheerleader in difficult times and joyful, and he is ready and willing to support me in my bid to become a District Court Judge, as I have supported him over the years.
When I was growing up, we were all expected to work at an early age—primarily to earn money, but also for the lessons in responsibility and discipline that come with having a job. My dad sold insurance, and my mom was a waitress; both instilled a strong work ethic in my siblings and me very early. I started babysitting as soon as someone would hire me but could not wait to get a “real job,” When I was 15, my mom helped me get hired as a waitress at the restaurant where she worked, The Hungry Pelican. I continued to work there until going off to college, where, in addition to more waitressing, I held down work-study jobs that were part of my financial aid/scholarship package at Vanderbilt.
I clerked for a small law firm in Buffalo and had an internship at the Erie County District Attorney’s Office during law school. These opportunities allowed me to learn more and fall in love with the nuts and bolts of civil and criminal practice while meeting many people and becoming more involved in the community. My husband’s pro football career with the Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Indianapolis Colts also provided us numerous opportunities to give back, and we remain committed to community involvement. Over the years, I have volunteered with Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), Kids Cancer Alliance, Sacred Heart Academy Alumnae Board, Ronald McDonald House, and others.
After passing the New York State Bar, I started my legal career as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of New York. It was a big job for a new lawyer, and I had a lot to learn! However, I am forever thankful that I had this opportunity to spend time working inside the courtroom early in my career. I loved the formality, rules, and procedures of the court, and this is when I first became interested in becoming a judge.
My first job as a lawyer in Kentucky was as a Parents’ Attorney on the Dependency, Neglect, and Abuse Docket in Family Court Div. 9. Again, I found myself working inside the courtroom, but this time on the defense side. It was often challenging to deal with the emotional subject matter of these cases. Still, professionally it was fascinating to work on the other side of the issue from previous work I had done.
Next, I dove into learning medical malpractice defense work as an associate attorney at Thomson, Miller, & Simpson and later at the all-female firm of McMasters, Keith, Butler. This opportunity was new and exciting because I had never worked in a civil practice before. But, again, I learned so much and grew both as an attorney and as an individual. I believe my experience in civil defense work significantly contributes to my qualifications for the bench.
An opportunity arose at this point of my life that I found too tempting to pass up. I was offered an interim position at UofL Brandeis Law School as the Director of Academic Success. That old love of school and learning had come full circle, and I took the job. It was gratifying to work directly with law students and immerse myself back in the law school coursework. It was a position I could have seen myself staying in for a long time, so I was upset when they did not offer me the permanent position. However, it all worked out better in the long run because I then found my way to the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office.
I spent seven years as a prosecutor in District Court with the County Attorney’s Office (2013-2020), working five years in felony/misdemeanor and two years on the Dependency, Neglect, and Abuse docket, handling thousands of cases. During this time, I learned firsthand how essential it is to treat everyone in the court system—attorneys, defendants, victims, witnesses, law enforcement, court personnel, and judges— fairly and respectfully while also holding them accountable. In addition, a large percentage of the people who pass through District Court are affected by poverty, addiction, and/or mental illness; therefore, it is vital to be knowledgeable about the court resources and alternative resolutions that are available. While working as a prosecutor every day in District Court can be a hectic and frantic experience, I believe it is the best possible training a new judge could have. I know that District Court, despite some shortcomings, is a vital beacon affecting the safety and lawfulness of our community. As a District Court judge, I will be an active voice for the betterment of court processes and all of Jefferson County.