HomeAbout the Initiative

About the Initiative

The John G. Heyburn II Initiative for Excellence in the Federal Judiciary is a non-partisan endeavor devoted to the preservation and study of federal judicial history, with a particular focus on Kentuckians' contributions to American legal discourse and the interaction of our three branches of government. Established in 2016 as a partnership between University of Kentucky Libraries and the Rosenberg College of Law, the Heyburn Initiative honors the late John G. Heyburn II, senior judge on the Western District Court of Kentucky from 1992 to 2015. The mission of the Heyburn Initiative is drawn from what inspired Judge Heyburn to leadership in the Federal Judiciary: "to ever improve the legal system considered the envy of the world."  

Archival materials and oral histories anchor the Initiative. They document Kentuckians who have served in the Judicial Branch and provide insight into its interactions with the Legislative Branch and the Executive branch. The collections and oral histories from federal judges—as well as from law clerks, legal scholars, court staff, and Executive and Congressional leaders—contextualize the work of the federal courts. The Heyburn Initiative builds on UK Libraries’ existing strengths, which include the papers and oral histories of two Supreme Court Justices, while also supporting the acquisition of new materials related to the courts:

Archival Materials

Oral History Interviews

In the Heyburn Initiative’s ongoing oral history project, members of the Federal Judiciary—particularly judges from United States district courts, circuit courts, and the Supreme Court—discuss their legal and judicial careers, including their nomination process and their reflections on Judge Heyburn himself. In addition, public figures such as Senator Mitch McConnell provide their perspectives on the role of “advice and consent” and relationships among the three branches of federal government.

UK Libraries' Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History also preserves and provides access to other oral histories related to the Federal Judiciary: