Lynch native now U.S. district judge

Published 12:18 pm Friday, June 15, 2018

A Harlan County native was recently confirmed as a United States district judge for the eastern half of Kentucky.

U.S. District Judge Robert Wier took the oath of office on Wednesday.

“The president had signed the commission, which is the formal appointing document on June 12,” Wier said. “Once he signed the commission, I took the oath the next day. The commission came a week after the Senate confirmation vote.”

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Wier began his journey to the federal bench in Lynch.

“I’m a Lynch native, I was born in the Daniel Boone Clinic,” Wier said. “I grew up in Lynch and was in the first class that went all the way through at Cumberland High School.”

Wier explained he attended school in Lynch for first through eighth grades. He then attended Cumberland High School due to the Lynch school closing. He graduated from Cumberland High School in 1985.

“Lynch was a fantastic place to grow up when I did, in the seventies and early eighties,” Wier said. “I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for the Harlan Daily Enterprise. I was a paperboy, delivered the Harlan Daily for several years in Lynch on my bicycle.”

Wier said Charles Henry Pope, the circulation director for the Enterprise at the time, would collect the money every week.

“I can remember him sitting at my kitchen table counting out money — the paper’s share and my share for delivering papers. Lynch was a safe place, and a really good place to grow up.” Wier remembered. “My dad was a doctor for 30 years at the Lynch clinic and everything I did got reported to him, so I tried to behave myself.”

Wier met his wife, Stephanie, in Lynch.

“We went to high school together,” Wier said. “We were actually in Lynch kindergarten together. We’ve been married almost 30 years and have four sons. She’s certainly one of the best things that ever happened to me.”

Wier stated there was a teacher at Cumberland High School who made a significant impact on him.

“Nancy Wilder was one of the best teachers I ever had,” Wier said. “She was an English teacher who really started me on a path to becoming an English major. She was a tremendous influence. I was in a great class.”

Wier was also a Governor’s Scholar.

“I think that’s an important program to nurture young students and leaders for the commonwealth,” Wier said. “I’m glad I was part of that program.”

After graduating from Cumberland High School, he attended the University of Kentucky for undergraduate work as well as law school.

“I graduated first in my class at U.K. Law School, then clerked for Judge (Eugene) Silar in London,” Wier said. “He was on the U.S. Court of Appeals at that time.”

After clerking, Wier worked for a firm in Lexington for three years doing commercial litigation. After that, he started a law firm with two law school classmates — staying with the firm for about 10 years. He then took the position of United States Magistrate Judge, which he occupied for the last 12 years before being sworn in as U.S. district judge.

Wier still has roots in the area and occasionally makes the trip to Harlan County. He also mentioned Harlan County has a long history when it comes to the federal court.

“I’m not the first district judge from Harlan,” Wier noted. “Judge Forester was on the court for many years, and he was from Harlan. Judge Unthank was a district judge, he just passed away in the last few years. There are a host of other court personnel who are from Harlan. Our chief probation officer, Rozel Hollingsworth, is from there. U.S. Magistrate Judge Ed Atkins is from Harlan. There’s a really strong contribution from our home county.”