About Benham Sims
Benham Sims The Person
I grew up in Owensboro, Kentucky. When I was 10 years old my family moved to Sarasota, Florida. I was the youngest of three children. My oldest sister, Dorothy Clay Sims, also an attorney, is considered an expert in the field of cross-examining and discrediting doctors hired by the medical insurance defense industry. My older brother, David, was born with Down’s Syndrome. I learned early in life that individuals without power and lacking the ability to negotiate issues of daily life needed more than advice. They need help, and, in some cases, a lot of help.
I also grew up in a family which was significantly impacted by the disease of alcoholism. As someone who has witnessed this issue from a personal standpoint, I understand the tremendous impact alcohol and drug addiction has on an individual’s life and the lives of the family and friends who love them. I have worked with prosecutors to provide a comprehensive list programs to help the addicted and just as important those who love them and want to help. My family member successfully won their struggle with addiction. My favorite gift was their 10-year chip-evidencing 10 years of sobriety and AA. Several clients have also given me chips representing their successful struggles against addiction.
I know that the battle against alcoholism and drug addiction can be fought; I see my clients conquer their addictions every day.
After I graduated high school in Sarasota, Florida I could not wait to move home to Kentucky. In 1979, I enrolled in the University of Kentucky and graduated from Transylvania University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and a Minor in History. While a student at the University of Louisville School of Law, I won the Pirtle-Washer Moot Court Scholarship given to the outstanding oral advocate. I also served as the President of the Moot Court Board and a member of the National Mock Trial Team. During law school, I was employed as a law clerk for the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office.
If you ask me, why the law? Why did you want to serve as a prosecutor and Judge? The answer is easy for me to explain. I was raised in a very public family that has been committed to improving the lives of all Kentuckians. My grandfather, Congressman John Young Brown, Sr., was widely regarded as the best trial lawyer in the state. Famed attorney F. Lee Bailey once described my grandfather as the “Clarence Darrow” of the South. Congressman Brown served as a United States Congressman during President Roosevelt’s famous first 100 days. As the youngest Speaker of the House in Kentucky’s history, Brown, Sr. overrode a governor’s veto to secure funding for the state to buy property that became Cumberland Falls State Park. My grandfather authored and was credited with the passage of the first civil rights bill in a southern state in 1966. Congressman Brown served as special Attorney General and prosecuted the Mob in Chicago and gained fame representing those charged with murder in Kentucky. In one eastern Kentucky jail, an inmate scrawled, “If you kill someone and heaven can’t help you- call John Y. Brown.”
My uncle, John Y. Brown, Jr. served as Governor of Kentucky, CEO of Kentucky Fried Chicken and owner of the Kentucky Colonels and Boston Celtics.
Public service was ingrained in me by my grandfather and by my parents. My father, Benham J. Sims, Jr., served as President of the Council on Mental Retardation in Davies County, Kentucky; and my mother, Dorothy, served as a head start teacher.
My older sister, Dorothy Clay Sims, also an attorney, is recognized as an expert in the field of cross-examining doctors. My sister was the President of the Marion County Bar Association. Dorothy Sims was the first woman to head the workers compensation section of the Florida Bar Association. She was approached by Casey Anthony’s lawyers and asked to join the defense team. The case created a national sensation with many media pundits and so-called legal experts guaranteeing a death penalty conviction. My sister has spoken all over the country about the misapplication of science in the criminal case leading to the wrongful convictions of innocent people. Jose Biaz, Cheney Mason and my sister Dorothy knew not to try the case in the court of public opinion, but try the case in a court of law where facts, science, and truth matter. Despite being subjected to thousands of threats, including specific and graphic death threats, the defense team, won overcame public and media prejudice. Many have called the Casey Anthony case the trial of the century. I am sure law students for generations to come will study this case and discover how close poorly rooted science came to winning a conviction. Visit Dorothy Clay Sims’ site here.
Her book Exposing Deceptive Defense Practices is utilized by lawyers all over the country.
My late Aunt Pam was an actress and an adventurist who ultimately lost her life while trying to be the first person to cross the Atlantic ocean in a balloon. Louisville Actors Theatre, Pamela Brown auditorium is named in her honor.
My uncle Bill McCann served as a State Representative, a founding member of the Pritchard Committee on Higher Education and litigated landmark cases mandating improvements to secondary and post-secondary schools in Kentucky. My aunt, Betty Bruce Brown, served on the Governor’s state task force on domestic violence. My cousins are teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, news anchors, business professionals, professors, lawyers, and film editors. This spirit of public service continues as my two nephews serve with the Peace Corps, one in Honduras, the other in Botswana. Public service is a family tradition.
Benham Sims The Lawyer
It is rare to find a practicing attorney who has served as a Judge, trial prosecutor, defense attorney, author, special prosecutor, and special public defender. Because of this experience I have been asked to serve as a seminar instructor at prosecutor conferences, public defender conferences, police department training, and for the Kentucky and Louisville Bar Associations. Governor Beshear appointed me as Special Justice to the Kentucky Supreme Court and appointed me to serve as a Board Member of the Kentucky Lottery Corporation and I currently serve as Vice Chair of the Audit Committee. In 2008, I had the honor of serving as a Special Justice on the Kentucky Supreme Court. My life and work experiences give me a unique perspective.
After earning my Juris Doctor from the University of Louisville School of Law in 1989, I was appointed an Assistant Jefferson County Attorney. I prosecuted murder cases in juvenile court, theft and drug cases in felony misdemeanor court and warrant courts, and gained statewide recognition for prosecuting DUI cases. I created and served as the Director of the DUI Jury Trial Division in the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office and wrote the Kentucky Prosecutor’s DUI Trial Manual, “But Officer, I only had two beers”.
In 1995, I was the only county attorney in the state to receive the Mothers Against Drunk Driving “MADD” Outstanding Public Service Award. Later that same year, Attorney General Ben Chandler bestowed on me the “State Prosecutor of the Year award on behalf of Kentucky Prosecutors. The Jefferson County Fraternal Order of Police also recognized me as “Prosecutor of the Year in 1996. In 1997, Attorney General Chandler asked me to serve as Special Counsel to the Kentucky DUI Task Force, charged with drafting the new DUI law for presentation to the 1998 Kentucky General Assembly. View Benham’s Awards.
In 1997, the Governor Paul Patton appointed me Judge in Jefferson District Court. I presided over numerous bench and jury trials. After leaving the bench, I was asked to serve as a “special public defender by the Jefferson County Public Defender’s office. In that capacity, I represented a number of indigent clients.
In 1977, Governor Beshear appointed me to serve as a Special Kentucky Supreme Court Justice in 2008. He appointed me to his Transition Team, and I was assigned to represent and make recommendations for his administration on the Kentucky Convention Center, Freedom Hall and the Tourism Cabinet. I enjoy public service and continue my work as Chair of the Audit Committee.
I have been representing clients in a variety of criminal and civil courts in Jefferson and surrounding counties since 1989. My practice primarily focuses on criminal law, personal injury, assault and battery, DUI, traffic offenses, theft, drug crimes, drug forfeiture, and drug trafficking. My practice primarily involves helping people charged with a crime navigate through the states busiest court system.
My clients have my cell phone number, my email, and my Skype number. I know my clients, their families, their children, and their stories. I hope my greatest strength is my sense of humor. Sometimes it disarms opponents…other times it devastates them. On more than one occasion I have used humor to deflect anger and build consensus on how to resolve a case. In winning a scholarship at the University of Louisville, Brandeis School of Law, I caused a panel of Kentucky Court of Appeals Judges to chuckle when I said:
“Counsel’s digging where there ain’t no taters.”
In one case, a client was charged with disorderly conduct, violation of a noise ordinance, criminal littering, and criminal trespass. To complicate matters, the prosecuting witnesses’ attorney was their son-in-law; thus the lawyer on the other side the case was free and motivated. I met in the conference room with the prosecuting witnesses’ attorney and the prosecutor. The prosecutor read aloud the allegations about the late parties, nudity, noise, and alcohol consumption. The prosecutor turned to me and asked:
Prosecutor: Benham, whose house is it?
Prosecutor: How old is he?
Prosecutor: And it is his house?
Prosecutor: Not his parents, he owns it?
Prosecutor: What does he do for a living?
Benham: Party Planner.
The prosecutor, the attorney for his in-laws and the rest of the conference room laughed so hard that the prosecutor agreed to pass the case and dismiss in six months’ time if no new offenses occurred. The case was ultimately dismissed and expunged.
Sometimes cases are resolved by spending hours poring over evidence and preparing for trial. One client was charged with DUI 2nd Offense, reckless driving, and possession of marijuana. The client was most insistent he was not guilty. After reviewing the prosecutors file, I secured a copy of the officer’s video and prepared the following cross-examination:
Cross of Police Officer
Before the trial commenced but after I reviewed the tape and my anticipated cross-examination of the officer with the prosecutor, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the charges and the charges were later expunged from my client’s record. As a former prosecutor, I understand the prosecutor’s role and their desire to do what is right. One of my goals in representing you is to help educate the prosecutor on “what is the correct resolution” to your case.
Despite being a defense attorney, I am often asked to teach at the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department Police Academy. I have served as an instructor for the Kentucky Bar Association, Kentucky Prosecutor’s Advisory Council, Kentucky Academy of Trial Attorneys, Louisville Bar Association, Kentucky State Police, Kentucky Motor Vehicle Enforcement Agency, Louisville-Jefferson County Crime Commission, Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, Jefferson County Public Defender, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Office of the Jefferson County Commonwealth Attorney, University of Kentucky School of Law, University of Louisville School of Law and other state and police agencies. I love interacting with the people at the court house. I love the stories, the people, and the work.
I am also committed to improving the Court System and the concept of restorative justice. I served on the Jefferson County Crime Commission and as Chair of the Corrections Day Reporting Center Task Force and serve as the defense for representation on the LBA Legislative Counsel. I was the only defense attorney from Kentucky to serve on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Gold Standards Committee. While serving on jury duty, I observed fellow jurors open their laptops and discover that the Courthouse did not offer a wireless connection. I worked with Jefferson County Circuit Court Clerk David Nicholson and a local company, Smoothstone, to secure free internet service for members of the bar and jurors. My passion the last five years involves the issue of expungements because misdemeanors were never meant to be life time sentences.
As a judge and in private practice I have advocated for the expansion of drug courts to address what the American Medical Association has recognized as a disease. Sadly, we live in a state that incarcerates more people than any other state in the union. Too often, we incarcerate those with mental illness and addiction issues instead of working to address their underlying problems. Dean Robert Lawson, former Dean of the University of Kentucky Law School, and the author of the modern criminal code in Kentucky has written extensively on this issue. Since 1982, we have increased the number of people in jails and prisons on drug charges from 50,000 to 500,000. That number exceeds the number of all people incarcerated in Western Europe. I encourage my clients, fellow members of the bar and the judiciary to review the following treatise:
Drug Law Reform-Retreating from an Incarceration Addiction, Robert G. Lawson, Kentucky Law Journal, Volume 98, 2009-2010, Number 2.
Benham Sims’ Favorites
I love to host barbecues for my neighbors and friends, enduring weekend sleepovers for his sons, college basketball, and reading about Daniel Boone, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Robert Kennedy. I am an admitted “gadget geek” and I can advise you regarding the latest phones, computers, and software available.
My favorite books: Robed Kennedy: To Seek a New World, by Jack Newfield, Counselor by Ted Sorenson, A Testament of Hope by James Washington, Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
My favorite activity: Grilling out with neighbors and friends or spending a day snorkeling.
My favorite music: James Taylor, Michael Buble, James Ingram, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Commodores, anything by the Eagles, or any ballad by Garth Brooks.
My favorite quotes: “Only when it’s dark enough, can you see the stars” Martin Luther King the night before he died.
“Come my friends, tis’ not too late to seek a new world.” Lord Alfred Tennyson
As God as my witness, I swear, I thought turkeys could fly+-WKRP in Cincinnati.
What I dislike: intolerance, indifference, and inaction.
I hate the fact that our state flower is the Goldenrod… a weed. A weed as the flower of one of the most beautiful areas of the world-unacceptable!
I have been married for over twenty years to Jefferson Family Court, Judge Deborah Deweese. My stepson, Patrick, graduated from the University of Kentucky and is working towards his masters in Sports Administration at the University of Louisville. My youngest son, Stephen, is a sophomore Psychology and Pre-Law major at the University of Kentucky. We have a eight-year-old cockapoo, Jodie Meeks Sims, and an twelve-year-old English Springer Spaniel named Hayley Elizabeth Sims.