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Retired, respected Supreme Court Justice Donald Wintersheimer, 89, dies peacefully at Covington home

Donald C. Wintersheimer who grew up in Northern Kentucky and held a seat on the Kentucky Supreme Court for 24 years, died peacefully at his Covington home February 18. He was 89.

Justice Wintersheimer earned a reputation as a gentleman and true scholar who lived a life dedicated to public service. Throughout his life, he was a hard worker, humble and kind and committed to justice for all.

Visitation will be held at Middendorf Funeral Home, 3312 Madison Pike, Ft. Wright, today from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, 1101 Madison Avenue, Covington on Wednesday, February 24, at 11 a.m.

Justice Donald C. Wintersheimer

Memorial donations are requested in lieu of flowers Newport Central Catholic High School, 13 Carothers Road, Newport, Ky. 41071 or Thomas More University, 333 Thomas More Parkway, Crestview Hills, Ky. 41017.

Justice Wintersheimer was married to Alice Rabe Wintersheimer, herself a beloved teacher, for almost 60 years. He was the son of the late Carl and Marie Wintersheimer and father of Mark Wintersheimer, who passed away on January 18, 2021, Lisa Wintersheimer Michel (Tim), Craig Wintersheimer (Susan), Amy Wintersheimer Findley (Chris), and Blaise Wintersheimer. He was also the grandfather of Kyndal Michel Marks (Sam), Kirsten, Kassidy, and Karley Michel, Adam, Claire, and Elizabeth Wintersheimer, and Ashley, Jacob, and Allison Findley, and the great-grandfather of Henry Donald Marks.

Justice Wintersheimer was born on April 21, 1931 and was raised in Bellevue, attended grade school at Sacred Heart Elementary, and graduated from Newport Catholic High School. He received an A.B. degree from Villa Madonna College (now Thomas More University) in 1953 and served in the U.S. Army Infantry from 1953 to 1955. He then received an M.A. degree from Xavier University in 1957, and his J.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1960.
He began his legal career in private practice and served as the City Solicitor for Covington for fourteen years. He became known as a pioneer in the area of consumer protection and was characterized as the proverbial “Don Quixote” battling the windmills of the powerful utility companies. Justice Wintersheimer won that battle and many others obtaining a $1.3 million refund for Northern Kentucky consumers.

Donald Wintersheimer

In 1976, he was elected to the Kentucky Court of Appeals where he served until his election to the Kentucky Supreme Court in 1982. He was re-elected three times and served on the Kentucky Supreme Court for 24 years until his retirement at the end of 2006.

Justice Wintersheimer was the most prolific opinion writer in Kentucky history, averaging over 50 opinions each year. His opinions addressed significant issues including establishing the Family Court in Kentucky; allowing for economic development such as the Toyota plant in Georgetown, Kentucky; allowing child witnesses to testify via closed circuit television; upholding open records laws and laws imposing strict standards on drunk drivers.

Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. said that he is the only member of the current Supreme Court to have had the pleasure of serving alongside Justice Wintersheimer. “I know that his service to the Kentucky Court of Justice set a high bar for all of us,” he said. “His lasting legacy will be his significant contribution to the body of law in Kentucky and his unsurpassed dedication to the legal profession and the court system.”

Justice Michelle M. Keller currently serves the same Supreme Court district in Northern Kentucky that Justice Wintersheimer served. “The passing of Justice Wintersheimer creates a hole in the fabric of our Kentucky Court of Justice,” she said. “Service on our Supreme Court is a rigorous endeavor and his 24 years of service there alone is enough to demand high praise and respect. However, he was so much more than a judge and public servant. He and his wife, Alice, were fixtures in the legal and faith community in Northern Kentucky and statewide. They raised a beautiful family together. Justice Wintersheimer laid down the best possible example for moral leadership that I and others could hope for. It is their great faith that will sustain them both through this next journey. Well done, God’s good and faithful servant.”

Justice Wintersheimer

Justice Wintersheimer was a brilliant teacher and regarded as an esteemed legal scholar in the field of State Constitutional Law.  He first taught Business Law at Thomas More College, then taught Kentucky Constitutional Law as an adjunct faculty member of the Chase College of Law for over 20 years. He wrote numerous articles on Constitutional Law and was frequently published in legal journals including the Chase Law Review, New York University Law Review, Temple University Law Review, Albany Law Review and Quinnipiac University Law Review.  Justice Wintersheimer also is the author of the Secrets of the Kentucky Supreme Court published in 2010.

He was a founding member of the Chase Inn of Court and was a dedicated member of countless boards including the American Judicature Society, Institute of Judicial Administration, American Society of Writers on Legal Subjects, Board of Visitors of Chase and UC College of Law, Board of Advisors of WNKU, and Foster Parent Review Board. Justice Wintersheimer received awards and recognitions for his public service including the Monsignor Murphy Award, Lincoln Award and an Honorary Doctor of Law from NKU, Distinguished Alumni Award from UC College of Law, Award of Excellence from Chase, Distinguished Alumni Award, Community Service Award and Outstanding Teacher Award from Thomas More University, CLE Award from the Kentucky Bar Association, Life Fellow Award from the Kentucky Bar Foundation, Recognition Award from the IOLTA Commission, and Phi Alpha Delta Outstanding Jurist Award. Justice Wintersheimer served as president of the Thomas More Alumni Association and Kentucky Municipal Attorneys’ Association.

Justice Wintersheimer was a devoted family man and a devout Roman Catholic, who was admired for his dedication, intelligence, principle and sincerity. He presided at countless swearing in ceremonies of new lawyers and elected officials, including perhaps most notably and memorably, that of his wife, Alice, when she became a Covington City Commissioner. His signature opening refrain for each of these ceremonies was “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.” (Psalms 118:24)   


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One Comment


    It is sad to see the loss of Judge Wintersheimer. He was a wonderful person to work with as city solicitor of Covington and Judge on the Ky Supreme Court. While working many years with the NKy Area Planning Commission (Now the Planning and Development Services of Kenton County), the Judge would often request our thoughts and input regarding Planning and Zoning issues coming before the Ky Supreme Court. He was truly a great Judge to work with and understood Ky Law.He will be truly missed.

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