The Heyburn Initiative: A National Resource

The Heyburn Initiative is a non-partisan program devoted to the preservation and study of Federal Judicial history. 


Although there are many Presidential libraries and Congressional centers, the Heyburn Initiative is unique in its focus on the Federal Judiciary and its emphasis on small-group, personal interactions. It is believed to be the first attempt to compile a complete history of the Third Branch in any state in the Union.

What We Believe

A Continuing Conversation

Judge Heyburn believed that “while judicial opinions are mandates, they are also part of a continuing conversation.” He was known for writing opinions that were accessible not only to lawyers, but to all citizens, emphasizing the importance of history, respect for precedence, and the rule of law.

An Ever-Improving Judiciary

Judge Heyburn had an unprecedented devotion toward enhancing the practices and processes of the Judiciary. He connected quality of justice with excellence in administration. His demanding roles as Chair of both the Budget Committee and Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation embodied this belief.

What We Do

Conferences & Speakers

Prepare and promote programs and conferences to enable study of and for the Federal Judiciary,  and development of curricula for civic instruction regarding the Third Branch. 

Archives & Oral Histories

Compile a complete history of all federal justices and judges with  a Kentucky connection, available online to researchers and citizens for free.

Student Awards

Law students who achieve academic excellence, or advance the study of the Federal Judiciary will be eligible for merit-based fellowships with high-profile speakers or jurists.


Create small-group interactions focused on high-profile issues to inspire speakers, program participants and students to heighten their aspirations and improve themselves and their professional organizations.

Who We Are

An independent Advisory Board of 7-9 members, with a separate Federal Judicial Advisory Panel direct the Heyburn Initiative.

The Board shall always include a designee from the Office of the President of UK, at least one College of Law alumnus, and a sitting or retired Article III federal judge.


Funding to support the Heyburn Initiative is raised privately, and to preserve the vision and integrity of its programming, is managed by the Community Foundation of Louisville, an independent 501(c)(3) entity based in Louisville.

The Advisory Board

Martha Heyburn, MD, Founder and Chair, vision and development; spouse of 39 years

William Heyburn, Financial Analyst; Head of Corporate Development, BLADE; son

Jack Heyburn, Attorney; Law Clerk, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, 2018-19; son

Eric Olson, Solicitor General of Colorado; Attorney; Former Law Clerk, Judge Heyburn and U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

Jay Blanton, UK Executive Director of Public Relations; Designee of UK President


Deirdre Skaggs, Interim Dean of UK Libraries, and David Brennen, Dean of UK College of Law, serve as ex-officio members.


The Federal Judicial Advisory Panel to the Board

Judge Amul Thapar, U.S. 6th Circuit

Judge David Hale, U.S. Western District of Kentucky, in a designated seat for a sitting or retired federal judge

Jim Duff, Executive Director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts

Judge Jeremy Fogel, Executive Director, Berkeley Judicial Institute, University of California Berkeley School of Law; Federal Judicial Center, Director (2011-18); U.S. Northern District of California (1998-2018)

Anu Kasarabada is the dedicated, full-time archivist and oral historian for the Heyburn Initiative at UK.

How We Are Sustained

Contributions to the John G. Heyburn II Initiative for Excellence in the Federal Judiciary are put toward our operating budget, providing support for our core programs, and inspiring our students to strive for more.


The Community Foundation of Louisville manages both operational and endowment funds for the Heyburn Initiative programs in perpetuity at the direction of the Heyburn Initiative Advisory Board.


This approach protects donors' gifts, as well as the vision and integrity of the Heyburn Initiative.