Judge Heyburn was nominated to serve on the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky in March 1992 by President George H.W. Bush. He served as Chief Judge on the court from 2001-2008. 

“We are thrilled Judge Heyburn will be part of the graduation festivities.  During his long tenure, Judge Heyburn has been a pioneer for justice and issued many groundbreaking decisions on a wide variety of important topics.  As a pillar of our legal community, we know his advice to our new graduates will be invaluable to them as they embark on their future careers,” said Brandeis School of Law Dean Susan Duncan.

Judge Heyburn grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1970 he received his A.B. from Harvard University where he majored in history and received seven varsity letters in cross country and track, and completed three Boston Marathons. In 1976, he received his J.D. from the University of Kentucky, where he was a member of the National Moot Court team.

From 1976 until his appointment to the bench, Judge Heyburn was associated with the law firm of Brown, Todd & Heyburn (now Frost Brown Todd). He was a partner at the firm from 1982 to 1992. His legal practice focused on civil litigation, with an emphasis on problemswithin the construction industry. Judge Heyburn also served as special counsel to then Jefferson

County Judge Executive Mitch McConnell.
He was also active in civic and political affairs in Kentucky, including serving as a delegate to the 1984 and 1988 Republican National Convention.
In March, 1992, President Bush nominated Judge Heyburn to the U.S. District Court. The United States Senate confirmed his appointment in August, 1992.
In 1994, Chief Justice Rehnquist appointed Judge Heyburn to serve on the Budget Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, which develops the appropriations request for the entire federal judiciary. In January, 1997, the Chief Justice appointed Judge Heyburn as Chair of the Budget Committee. He served in that position until December, 2004.
Judge Heyburn testified to the House and Senate each year to explain the judiciary policies and its budgetary needs. He has spoken throughout the country about the budget process and the requirements of an independent judiciary.
Additionally, in June, 2007, Chief Justice Roberts appointed Judge Heyburn as Chair of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. The Panel decides whether cases in districts around the country, including many nationwide class actions, should be consolidated and the appropriate site for consolidation. Judge Heyburn has spoken on the subject of class action litigation and the role of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation. Judge Heyburn’s seven-year term expired in October, 2014.
Judge Heyburn has presided over many noteworthy cases during his time on the bench, including two that have reached the United States Supreme Court:

  • In 2007, the Supreme Court considered the appeal arising from Judge Heyburn’s opinion in the Jefferson County School assignment case;
  • In 2014, the Court granted certiorari in two gay marriage cases which originated from opinions by Judge Heyburn.

Judge Heyburn is married to the former Martha Blackledge Keeney who has retired from her ophthalmology practice. They have two sons.