Kentucky’s judicial branch is set to begin a study that will examine the balance of caseloads throughout the state.
Speaking to reporters after his annual “State of the Judiciary” address to lawmakers Friday, Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton, Jr., said there is a perception held by many that some parts of the state have too few judges, while other regions have too many.
“And rolled up in that is the continuing concern in Daviess County of the need for family court, Daviess County being the largest jurisdiction in the state without family court.”
Seventy-one of Kentucky's 120 counties have family courts. In counties that don't—such as Daviess—circuit judges are tasked with hearing cases regarding adoption, paternity, and domestic violence.
The Kentucky Supreme Court in 2012 certified the need for two family court positions in Daviess County, but budget constraints have delayed any action.
Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton Jr. presents his annual State of the Judiciary address this week in Frankfort. Minton will deliver the address to the General Assembly's interim joint judiciary committee Friday morning at the Administrative Office of the Courts.
The 10:00 a.m. EDT event is open to the public.
The AOC said in a statement that Minton is expected to discuss recent accomplishments of the judicial branch in Kentucky, including developments in court technology. He's also expected to highlight challenges facing the state court system.
Attorneys and judges from across the state are gathering in Louisville to discuss applying new research in addiction and brain science to better treat offenders enrolled in Kentucky’s drug courts.
Kentucky Supreme Court Justice John Minton, a former drug court judge and Bowling Green native, says that the field is only recently beginning to understand the links between emotional and substance abuse.
“We’re beginning to understand more and more about what we call ‘co-occurrences,’ and that is, there is substance abuse, but there is also some other co-existing or co-occurring mental or emotional condition, and each feeds on the other," Minton said. "And the challenge in drug court was to identify what those were, and see how to treat what first.”
Kentucky’s drug courts serve 115 of the state’s 120 counties, and offer an alternative to incarceration, which the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts says saves lives in addition to taxpayer money.
Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton says lawmakers need to provide more pay equity for court system employees across the state.
Speaking to lawmakers Friday in Hopkinsville and to reporters on a conference call, Minton says the pay scale for the state judicial system is lagging behind other areas of the government. Minton says the push for better employee pay will be his primary focus when the court's budget request is submitted to lawmakers in November.
Minton says the first pay increases should go to the lower paid employees, some of whom make less than the federal poverty line -- about $23,500 for a family of four.
As chief justice, Minton has administrative oversight of the entire state court system and is responsible for delivering the budget request to lawmakers.
Daviess County has the largest caseload of any county in Kentucky without a family court. The Kentucky Supreme Court last year certified the need for two family court positions in Daviess County, but budget constraints have delayed any action.
"The money has not been allocated,” says Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton, Jr. “The budgets have been so strained in the last few years that expansion of any sort has been put on hold. I've not met any resistance from legislators in terms of the need, it's just a matter of the funding."
Minton says family judgeships could possibly be created without additional state appropriations. He says when a judge retires in one part of the state, that judgeship could be moved to a county in need of a family court. The retiring judge would not be replaced if he or she had a small caseload. The Administrative Office of the Courts can decertify a judgeship if deemed no longer necessary because of declining caseloads.
"There are places where the populations and caseloads have grown and there are places where the populations and caseloads have shrunk over time," says Minton. "It's been several generations since we have addressed the deployment of judicial resources around the state, so it needs another look."
After a year of budget cuts to Kentucky's court system, Chief Justice John Minton said furloughs won't happen in the next year, but he is asking lawmakers to find more money for the state’s judicial branch.
Kentucky's judicial branch will face more cuts in the upcoming fiscal year, though, Minton said in his annual address to the interim judicial committee.
“You will continue to hear me raise the issue of the need for adequate court funding as we head into the fiscal year 2014, which presents as we face that, an additional shortfall of $28.7 million,” Minton told lawmakers.
Minton said he was upset that courts had to close for three days in the last fiscal year for furloughs.