First Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney
Jim Redwine is the veteran prosecutor in the Kenton County Commonwealth’s Attorney office.
Jim, who has been a lawyer since 1984, started working as a prosecutor in 1994 after 11 years working as an insurance claims adjuster, as executive director of Northern Kentucky Orthopedic Associates, and a lawyer in private practice.
As executive director of the medical practice, Jim managed an organization with a $4.5 million budget and 42 employees.
“Even though I was good at running the medical business and helped that business grow, I wanted to practice law; I wanted to be an advocate in the courtroom,” Jim said.
So, 1989, after two years of running the medical practice, Jim hung a shingle and opened a private law practice. As a solo practitioner, he did misdemeanor and felony criminal defense work, represented juveniles in delinquency and dependency actions, and handled personal injury, consumer, and bankruptcy cases.
In 1994, Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson hired Jim as an assistant Kenton County prosecutor, where he prosecuted misdemeanors, traffic offenses, and juvenile cases.
“Having been in private practice as a solo practitioner was extremely helpful,” Jim said. “The experience allows you see different kinds of people in different situations and contexts. Thus, as a prosecutor, you better understand them as criminal defendants. The experience also helped me better understand criminal law and issues that are raised in the courtroom.”
After four years at the County Attorney’s office, then-Kenton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Don Buring hired Jim as an assistant prosecutor in his office. However, after prosecuting felony cases for two years, Jim left the Commonwealth’s Attorney Office when Buring lost his re-election.
Fortunately for Jim, then-Kentucky Attorney General Ben Chandler recognized Jim’s talents and hired him to serve as a special prosecutor in his office. Jim’s primary job was to serve as a special prosecutor in cases where Commonwealth’s Attorneys or their assistant prosecutors had conflicts of interest.
Because a number of newly elected Commonwealth’s Attorneys or their assistants were former criminal defense lawyers when they took office in 2000, nearly 200 criminal cases statewide had conflicts of interest. A number of new prosecutors, including several in Kenton County, could not try the cases as prosecutors because they were against some of their former clients.
After two years of working for the Attorney General in this capacity, Jim worked as an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Campbell County before returning to Kenton County. When Rob Sanders became Kenton County Commonwealth’s Attorney in 2007, he retained Jim as an assistant and eventually promoted him to First Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney. Jim’s primary work in this role is trying violent crimes and felony DUI cases to juries.
“I still really enjoy going into the courtroom and doing my job,” he said. “I also enjoy sharing my experience and my breadth of knowledge with the younger prosecutors in the office, all of whom are quality lawyers in their own right.”
As a prosecutor, Jim said his approach is to be tough, but fair. “Everyone is responsible for his or her own actions,” he said. “At the same time, there are idiots, and there are criminals. With respect to criminals, I have no mercy for them; they need to go to prison. But not all idiots need to go to prison.”
After working as a prosecutor for 18 years, Jim said that one of the most important things he must do on a regular basis is guard against cynicism.
“Because I’ve done this work so long, I continually must remind myself that not everyone does heroin and not everyone shoots each other,” he said. “The segment of society that I work with is very small. It’s important for me to remind myself that most people are good people trying to raise their families, and most of the folks I deal with on a daily basis are the exception, not the rule.”