In 1989 Janet L. Stumbo became the first woman from the 7th Judicial District to be elected to the Kentucky Court of Appeals. At that time, she was only the second woman to serve on the Court of Appeals and the first woman to be elected without having first been appointed. Judge Stumbo served four years with the Court of Appeals before being the first woman elected (again without having first been appointed) to the Supreme Court of Kentucky in November 1993. She was re-elected to a full eight-year term on the Supreme Court in 1996. While a Supreme Court justice she served as chair of both the Civil Rules Committee and the Family Court Consortium, a statewide committee appointed by then Chief Justice Robert F. Stephens to implement a pilot project for Family Court. The consortium's work resulted in the enactment of an amendment to the Kentucky Constitution and legislation establishing Family Court in jurisdictions across the Commonwealth.
In November 2006, two years after completing her Supreme Court tenure, Judge Stumbo was elected to the Court of Appeals for a second time to represent the 7th Appellate District.
Judge Stumbo earned her bachelor's degree from Morehead State University and her juris doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law. She began her legal career as a staff attorney to the late Judge Harris S. Howard of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. She entered private practice in 1982 with Turner, Hall & Stumbo, PSC, where she focused on cases involving workers' compensation, federal black lung claims, dissolution of marriage and personal injury.
She also served as assistant Floyd County attorney for three years and sat on the board of directors of the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky from 1983 to 1989, serving as board chair from 1984 to 1989. Judge Stumbo became a partner in Stumbo, DeRossett & Pillersdorf in 1989, just before being elected to the Court of Appeals for the first time.
During her break from the bench in 2004 to 2006, she taught at the Appalachian School of Law and the University of Kentucky College of Law. She also taught a mock trial course for high schools students at Verbally and Mathematically Precocious Youth, a summer camp hosted by Western Kentucky University.
Judge Stumbo was inducted into the UK College of Law Alumni Hall of Fame in 1999 and intthe Morehead State University Alumni Association Hall of Fame in 1990. In 1996 the Kentucky Bar Association for Women gave her its first Women Lawyers of Achievement Award, which recognizes professional excellence in the practice of law and efforts to open the field for other women. In 1995 the Women in State Government Network presented her with its Bull's Eye Award. The Kentucky Women Advocates gave her its 1995 Outstanding Justice Award for her support of adopting gender fairness into state judicial language and its 1991 Justice Award for her use of spousal abuse evidence as grounds for setting aside a settlement in dissolution of marriage cases and for her support in creating a shelter for abused women in Floyd County.
Judge Stumbo is a native of Floyd County. She and her husband, attorney Ned Pillersdorf, have three daughters, Sarah, Nancee and Samantha.