LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - William E. McAnulty, the first black to serve on the state Supreme Court, is stepping down from the bench to focus on his fight against cancer.
McAnulty, 59, said in a statement Thursday night his recovery from lung cancer takes precedent over his seat on the state's highest court.
"Serving on Kentucky's Supreme Court has been the most satisfying experience in my career," he said. "However, my family and I will now devote our energies to completing my cancer treatment."
McAnulty was appointed to the court by Gov. Ernie Fletcher in June 2006 to replace Justice Martin E. Johnstone. McAnulty won a full 8-year term on the high court in November, defeating Jefferson Circuit Judge Ann O'Malley Shake.
The justice revealed in last month that he had lung cancer which had spread to his brain. McAnulty underwent brain surgery on July 11 to have a one-inch lesion removed from the base of his brain.
Before the surgery, McAnulty joked about the cancer diagnosis and his meeting with a neurosurgeon.
"My only question was will this make me a UK fan or affect my political outlook," McAnulty said. "He assured me it won't, so I'm excited about that."
McAnulty said the cancer was from a 40-year smoking habit he kicked in December 2006.
"I'm paying the piper. I ain't a victim and I ain't going to whine," McAnulty said. "If you let something overwhelm you, it will overwhelm you."
Chief Justice Joseph E. Lambert will convene a judicial nominating commission that will submit three names to Fletcher, who will choose McAnulty's replacement. The new justice will serve until November, 2008.
The court will convene next week with six members. If the court becomes deadlocked on a decision before a seventh member is appointed, the ruling by the lower court is affirmed.
Lambert praised McAnulty's commitment to the court, part of a legal career that spanned four decades.
"Justice McAnulty has had an extraordinary career in the Kentucky judiciary," Lambert said. "He has served on all four levels of Kentucky state courts with ability, honor and distinction."
McAnulty's first judgeship was in 1975 on the former Jefferson Juvenile Court for two years before winning election to Jefferson District Court, where he stayed until 1983.
McAnulty, an Indianapolis native who graduated from Indiana University, also served as the state Justice Cabinet secretary under former Gov. John Y. Brown Jr., taught at the University of Louisville's Brandeis School of Law, then returned to the bench in 1984. In 1998, he was elected to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)