Debra Hembree Lambert grew up on Greasy Creek in Bell County, KY

Debra’s father, James (J.C.) Hembree was a Knox County (Coalport) native who worked in and around various coal mines as a young boy, he served in the National Guard and later operated a body shop in Pineville, KY until his death in 1990. Debra’s mother Kathleen Jordan Hembree worked at Pineville Community Hospital as a nurse’s aide and central supply clerk before retiring in the 1990’s. Neither of Debra’s parents had the privilege of education, but taught Debra that education and hard work were absolutely necessary. She helped her dad around the body shop and was taught to change her own oil and tires, replace brake pads and how to do other minor car repairs.

“I learned the monetary value of hard work and the therapeutic value of manual labor from my dad,” Lambert said. “He was also very concerned that I be self-sufficient, especially since I was a girl. Mom has never met a stranger and taught me to enjoy all kinds of people. She is always ready with a big smile and a couple of jokes! I am most grateful that my mother passed on her joyfulness and optimism to me.”

Personal Life
Judge Lambert is married to Joe Sharpe and they live in Burnside, (Pulaski County) Kentucky. She is the mother of two sons, Joseph Patrick Lambert, who practices law in Mt. Vernon, and John Ryan Lambert, who works at Rockcastle Regional Hospital. She is also the step-mother of Jessica Sharpe (Nick) Stringer and Nonna of Sam; and step-mother to Chelsea Sharpe and fiancé Evan Woolums.

Judge Debra Hembree Lambert

Judicial Experience, Judicial Integrity


Debra was able to attend a special summer program at what was then Cumberland College in nearby Williamsburg, Kentucky after her junior year in high school. She was the first of her family to graduate high school (Lone Jack High School, Class of 1980).  Because finances were very tight, she was able to attend Eastern Kentucky University with a combination of scholarships, Pell grants, loans and her job at Wendy’s.

With summer school and heavy course loads, Debra graduated EKU in 1983, with distinction. She later graduated from the University of Kentucky School of Law in 1989. Debra is proud that she was able to juggle being a wife, a mother to a rambunctious toddler, and still graduate in the top 25% of her class. Debra practiced law in Mount Vernon from 1989 until 1999 when Governor Paul E. Patton appointed her to serve as the first family court judge in Pulaski, Lincoln and Rockcastle counties. Debra was elected in 2000 and served in that capacity until 2006.

Practice Years

In her years of practice, Debra has served as an assistant Commonwealth’s attorney, prosecuted felony cases and prepared criminal cases from start to finish. She has also served as city attorney for the City of Mount Vernon. Debra has represented people in legal crises at all levels of Kentucky’s court system. She has practiced cases before state and federal administrative agencies and has tried many cases before juries. Debra also represented Rockcastle Regional Hospital, and tried motor vehicle accident cases in a several county area for State Farm Insurance. As a successful attorney, she has run her own small business and was a strong advocate for her clients. The Supreme Court reviews attorney and judge discipline cases and rulemaking for the court system. It is critical that a Justice have real, law practice and judicial experience. Her biggest inspiration for running for her current appellate court seat on the Kentucky Court of Appeals was the lengthy delays in the appellate process. Debra has been fierce in fighting delays in her appellate work since she came on the Kentucky Court of Appeals. She is the only candidate with appellate court judicial experience.

Read more about what Judge Lambert has accomplished in Kentucky