John Minton

Administrative Office of the Courts

During his annual State of the Judiciary address on Friday, Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton asked lawmakers to raise salaries for the state’s 284 judges and justices.

Minton said the state compensates judges at the lowest rate compared to surrounding states, which he said makes judges feel discouraged and undervalued.

“It also provides little incentive, really, for the best and brightest lawyers to leave a lucrative law practice to mount an expensive campaign for election to judicial office,” Minton said.

Salaries for judges and justices range from $112,668 to $140,504 per year. Minton proposed that during the 2018 budget-writing session, lawmakers grant a 5 percent pay raise each year for two years. The total cost would be about $5.7 million.

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Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton Jr. says the number of expungement requests have doubled since a new law went into effect allowing some convicted felons to clear their records.

Minton told lawmakers during his annual State of the Judiciary address that the Administrative Office of the Courts has received 8,400 criminal record reports for expungement since the law went into effect on July 15. He said that number is about double the number of requests at this time last year.

Minton said the number includes requests for misdemeanors and felonies, adding officials cannot separate the two categories. But he attributes the increase in requests to the passage of the expungement bill.

HB.40 allows people convicted of certain non-violent felonies to clear their records if they have no other pending charges.

Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts

The just-concluded legislative session contains a major victory for Daviess County.  

The final budget agreement includes funding to create a Family Court. District and circuit judges currently handle family issues.  

John Minton, Jr. has been advocating for the judgeship since becoming Chief Justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court in 2008.  He says the goal is to keep family cases before the same judge.

"It's possible under the system without Family Court for a family to have issues in different places before different judges with different outcomes, so Family Court allows us to process all the issues around families in one place.

Family judges preside over cases such as divorce, child custody, adoptions, and domestic violence.  Daviess County is the largest county in the state without a Family Court judge.

Once the law becomes effective in mid-July, Governor Bevin will appoint someone to serve as Daviess County Family Court Judge until the position is up for election in November.

Lisa Autry

The chief justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court says the state is facing a potential “constitutional crisis” if courts undergo budget cuts proposed by Governor Matt Bevin.

Chief Justice John Minton says that the Judicial Branch will be unable to perform necessary functions under the cuts and would have to shut down for three weeks during this fiscal year.

“We just simply couldn’t make payroll between now and June 30th if we have to give back $9.5 million," Minton explained.

Justice Minton is requesting that the judicial branch be totally exempted from the cuts. Bevin’s budget cuts nearly all state spending by 4.5 percent this year and 9 percent over the next two years.

Minton says the state’s drug court system could be shut down as a result of the cuts. The program allows those convicted of drug crimes to participate in substance abuse programs instead of serving time.

Kentucky Supreme Court

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 Supreme Court

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.

ky.gov

Kentucky's top judge will ask for more funding to bring justice cabinet salaries in line with those of the legislative and executive branches.

Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton will present a budget overview and a request for additional money to lawmakers Monday in Frankfort.

Minton says roughly 800 of the judicial branch’s 3,300 non-elected employees make less than the federal poverty level for a family of four, with many more qualifying for food stamps. 

“That is a situation that really demands attention from, you know, our legislators. We’re going to ask that we be able to be funded at a level so that we can rectify that.”

Minton says the low salaries affect workers from clerks to warehouse workers, but declined to say how much money he would ask the committee for.

The 2014 budget for non-elected judicial branch salaries, excluding benefits, is $89 million.

Kentucky Supreme Court

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."

ky.gov

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.