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    John Heyburn logo

    The Heyburn Initiative is a national, non-partisan endeavor established in 2016 in honor of the late U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II. It was established to study and document the role of the Third Branch in our democracy.


    Our mission 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."  

    An Enduring Legacy

    The Heyburn Initiative honors Judge Heyburn's passion for the rule of law and his belief that judges' opinions, while mandates, are part of a continuing conversation. New issues require revisiting their application to the interpretation of the Constitution.

    Speaker & Conference Program

    In partnership with the University of Kentucky College of Law, the Heyburn Initiative hosts a national lecture series with prominent speakers to engage students, judges, and others on judicial topics of seminal importance to judges, and therefore, the nation.

    The Initiative has expanded its programming to occasionally host the Federal Judicial Center's official training program for newly-confirmed U.S. District and Circuit judges.

    Archives & Oral Histories

    Working with the University of Kentucky Libraries, the Heyburn Initiative is creating archives and oral history collections.


    These materials are devoted to the preservation of Federal Judicial history - with a particular focus on Kentuckians' contributions - and understanding the way the three branches of government interact historically and currently in our democracy.

    The White House - Washington DC, United
    Supreme Court of the United States of Am
    United States Capitol Building in Washin
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    Judge John G. Heyburn II

    Judge Heyburn forged a 24-year career in the Third Branch, having been appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. 

    Judge Heyburn presided over 7,645 cases, including seminal cases recognizing same sex marriage and racially desegregating schools.

    U.S. Senate Honors Heyburn Initiative

    On December 12, 2017, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recognized the Heyburn Initiative on the Senate floor.

    Senator McConnell called the Initiative a "groundbreaking program" in his home state, and described in great detail how the Initiative came about and how it seeks to benefit and educate citizens, students, and members of the Federal Judiciary.

    "Many of us are familiar with Presidential libraries and Congressional centers throughout the country, but this project would be distinctive in its study of the Federal Judiciary," McConnell said.

    Contact Us

    Inquiries related to financial support of the Heyburn Initiative should be directed to Heather Cash at the Community Foundation of Louisville at 502-855-6955 or
    To access or contribute to the archives and oral histories, contact Anu Kasarabada at UK Libraries at 859-257-4631 or
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