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.