The1st meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary was held on Thursday, June 11, 2009, at<MeetTime> 10:00 AM, in the Juror Instruction Room, 2nd Floor, Kenton County Justice Center, 230 Madison Avenue, Covington, KY 41011. Representative John Tilley, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members: Representative John Tilley, Co-Chair; Senators Perry B. Clark, Ray S. Jones II, Gerald A. Neal, Dan "Malano" Seum, Katie Kratz Stine, and Jack Westwood; Representatives Johnny Bell, Joseph M. Fischer, Kelly Flood, Thomas Kerr, Harry Moberly Jr., Tom Riner, Steven Rudy, and Robin L. Webb.
Guests: Chief Circuit Judge Julie Reinhardt Ward, Campbell County Circuit Court; Christine Vissman, Attorney, Campbell County Community Corrections Program; and Chief District Judge Karen A. Thomas, Campbell County District Court for The Mental Health Court Program and Teen Court Diversion Program in Campbell County.
LRC Staff: Norman W. Lawson, Jr., CSA; Ray DeBolt, Joanna Decker, Jon Grate, Carolyn Gaines and Christy May.
Representative Tilley called the meeting to order, the roll was called, and a quorum was present. Senator Neal introduced Mr. Charles Booker, a third year law student from the University of Louisville. Representative Rudy introduced Representative Pullen who was observing the meeting, and Senator Westwood welcomed the committee and the participants at the meeting to Northern Kentucky. Chairman Tilley announced that Senator Schickel was unable to attend the meeting due to his participation in another committee meeting.
Chairman Tilley named the members of the Penal Code and Controlled Substance Act Subcommittee. The members are Senators: Gerald A. Neal, Co-Chair, Ray S. Jones, Jerry P. Rhoads, John Schickel, Dan “Malano” Seum, Katie Kratz Stein, and Robert Stivers; and Representatives: John Tilley Co-Chair, Johnny Bell, Joseph M. Fischer, Jeff Hoover, Darryl T. Owens, Robin L. Webb; and Brent Yonts.
Following the Subcommittee introductions, Representative Tilley asked Senator Katie Stine to introduce the speakers and conduct the meeting. The first speaker was Campbell County Chief Circuit Judge Julie Reinhardt Ward, who presented information about the Northern Kentucky Economic Litigation Project. Judge Ward described the economic litigation project as a Supreme Court of Kentucky authorized program for rapid disposition of civil cases in selected courts approved by the Supreme Court of Kentucky. Judge Ward indicated that the program is sometimes referred to as the “rocket docket” for civil cases. The program is governed by Rules 88 through 97 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. Judge Ward described the program as having the following elements: (1) after the case is filed the Circuit Clerk holds the case for 20 days to make certain that all parties are properly summoned and provided the opportunity to file an answer to the allegations; (2) the judge then reviews the case and if no answer was filed then a default judgment may be granted; (3) if an answer was filed, the judge calls the attorneys together within 15 days for a discovery conference to determine the facts which is followed within 60 days by a pretrial conference to see if a compromise can be worked out; (4) if the pretrial conference indicates that a trial will be required a trial date is set within 30 days and judges do not regularly grant trial delays; (5) if the parties do not respond, the case is dismissed but can be refilled if the statute of limitations has not yet expired. Judge Ward indicated that the Economic Litigation docket is in use in three counties, and in Campbell County from January 1, 2007 to June 10, 2009, 3,324 cases were opened, and during that same time period 2,694 cases were closed and only 11, 2007 cases were still open.
When asked about the pros and cons, Judge Ward responded that rules in most cases are modified, that the program keeps cases moving, that judges know the details in the case early on, and the Clerk is not required to wait until the end of the year to attempt to send out notices about lack of progress in cases. Among the negatives, Judge Ward cited were that some attorneys do not like the program because, if they miss deadlines, the cases are dismissed and have to be refiled. Some attorneys did not like the speed with which actions had to be taken. Representative Webb complimented Representative Jon David Reinhardt’s, who is Judge Ward’s father, service in the General Assembly and asked Judge Ward if the Economic Litigation Project led to more settlements of cases, to which Judge Ward replied, that it did not. Representative Riner complimented Judge Ward for being the first female Circuit Judge in Campbell County.
The next speaker was Ms. Christine Vissman, an attorney from Campbell County who had recently retired as administrator of the Campbell County Community Corrections Program and who, since retirement, has been helping with the program. Ms. Vissman indicated that the program is being funded by grants from the Department of Corrections and by services rendered by the agencies providing services for the program. Ms. Vissman indicated that the program was instituted ten years ago to serve targeted offenders and to provide training, counseling and other services for them in order for them not to be jailed for their offenses but who must remain employed, pay restitution, pay child support, and pay taxes. Ms. Vissman indicated that presently there were 13 clients in various stages of the program; 10 clients were facing revocation of probation and would have been sent to the penitentiary if not enrolled in the program. One client graduated from the program. Programs currently used by the clients include counseling, outpatient treatment, aftercare treatment, drug and alcohol testing. Ms. Vissman indicated 10 clients are paying child support, 3 clients are paying restitution, one client is paying fines and court costs, while 5 clients are subject to random drug tests.
Ms. Vissman indicated that the Commonwealth would be paying for the incarceration of these clients if they were not in the program and that this group of clients has already paid $22,530 in child support this grant year. Ms. Vissman observed that since the program’s inception that $253,803 has been collected in child support, $18,893 has been collected in restitution, and $5,491 has been collected in fines and court costs, for a total of $269,922. Ms. Vissman indicated that, particularly in connection with the operation of Mental Health Court, that one of the problems encountered is providing inpatient treatment for clients and that the wait for inpatient treatment now exceeds 6 months. Ms. Vissman indicated that the program pays the $20 per day cost for Global Positioning System electronic monitoring when required but in most cases provides the $5 per day cost for regular monitoring. Ms. Vissman indicated the if the program was not in operation during the third quarter of this grant year alone, its clients would have spent 896 days in prison at a cost of $37,464, versus the cost of operation of the program for this period which was $6,350.
Representative Bell asked who funded the program, Ms. Vissman indicated the program was funded by a Department of Corrections grant pursuant to KRS Chapter 196. Representative Bell then asked if the program was available statewide. Ms. Vissman replied that any county could apply funds but that the major problem relating to full statewide implementation was funding which was $500,000 per year several years ago. Ms. Vissman indicated that funds have been made available for home incarceration programs in Western Kentucky. Representative Webb indicated that one of the problems in making the program available statewide was the lack of services in rural areas, and she asked for the recidivism rate for the program. Ms. Vissman responded that, of the nonsupport clients, only 2 persons in 10 years had been re-charged with nonsupport. When asked about the relationship of the program with state probation and parole, Ms. Vissman responded that the program interacts with the state probation and parole program but that the actual monitoring of participants in the program is done by personnel from the program, thus saving probation and parole officers this duty. No supervision fee is charged to the client.
The next speaker was Chief Campbell County District Judge Karen Thomas who spoke about the Northern Kentucky Regional Mental Health Court Program in Campbell, Kenton, and Boone Counties. Judge Thomas observed that many drug court participants had mental health problems as well as substance abuse problems and indicated the Mental Health Court is modeled on the Drug Court Program. Judge Thomas indicated that 5% of persons in the U.S. are mentally ill, 16% of U.S. inmates are mentally ill, that 14% of Kentucky inmates are on psychotropic medication, and that 18% of Kenton County inmates are on psychotropic medication. Judge Thomas indicated that Kentucky has only two mental health court programs at present while Idaho has 25 such programs. Judge Thomas described the goals of Mental Health Court as: to reduce mental illnesses effect on the offender and society and if applicable, reduce drug dependencies among offenders; to reduce recidivism; to reduce the mental health related court workload; to increase the personal, familial, and societal accountability of offenders; and to promote effective interaction and use of resources among criminal justice personnel and community partners.
Judge Thomas indicated that jail overcrowding created the need for the program and that so far the Mental Health Court Program and the Drug Court Program have been effective in reducing recidivism. Judge Thomas, who also runs the Drug Court Program, observed that the Drug Court Program has saved the state $42 million in imprisonment costs with the yearly cost of drug court per participant being $5,179, balanced against $18,637 yearly cost of incarceration per prisoner. Judge Thomas commented that recidivism for drug court has been 20% versus 57.3% for persons on probation, and that the recidivism for mental health court has been 8%. The Northern Kentucky program was in the planning stage in January, 2007, and the program was partially implemented in November, 2008. The Regional Mental Health Court Program has received grants from Northern Kentucky University, Greater Cincinnati Health Foundation, and Community Corrections funding from the Kentucky Department of Corrections.
Judge Thomas indicated that persons with the following types of charges and illnesses are eligible for the program: Non-violent, nonsexual felony offenses, violent Class C and Class D felony offenses on a case by case basis with consent of the victim; all misdemeanors except sexual offenses on a case by case basis; Axis I and II on a case by case basis; co-occurring disorders, residency within Northern Kentucky and exceptions on a case by case basis. All potential participants are interviewed by a professional or by students supervised by a licensed professional. Typical services provided are for homelessness, case management, transportation, jobs, job training, life skills training, Social Security/Medicare assistance, after-care, and treatment, and these services are provided by community agencies and organizations. Judge Thomas indicated that she is seeking funding and agencies to increase the program’s participants. Representative Webb asked if the participant’s attorney was kept informed throughout the program and commented that in some programs the participant’s attorney is not present when questioning or critical decisions are taken. Judge Thomas replied that the defendant’s counsel is a participant in the program and is notified of actions. Senator Seum asked if the Supreme Court of Kentucky has to approve the initiation of such a program, to which Judge Thomas responded that approval was required and had been given for this program. When asked if other counties wanted to start a Mental Health Court Program, Judge Thomas indicated that Hardin County is interested in the program. Representative Riner asked if it is more harmful for persons with mental health problems to remain in jail rather than participate in a Mental Health Court Program, to which Judge Thomas responded that remaining in jail was more harmful to the participant and that jail has become a mental health facility. This has resulted in the criminalization of mental illness.
Judge Thomas then spoke about the Campbell County Teen Court Program, which is an intervention program for juveniles who commit ordinance violations or minor crimes such as retail theft, minor theft, disorderly conduct, truancy, or minor damage to property. The juvenile admits guilt and may voluntarily enter the Teen Court Program. The juveniles receive sentences from a jury of other teens selected to participate in the program and local attorneys volunteer to assist the Teen Court students and the judges. Sentences may include apology letters, community service, jury duty on the Teen Court, etc. The Teen Court Program is an approved program of the Supreme Court of Kentucky with a mission to: reduce repeat offenses by youth; change the offender’s attitudes towards law enforcement, society, and themselves; and have young offenders held accountable for their actions and increase the client’s level of understanding how their behaviors have impacted others. Teens charged with juvenile offenses are referred to the program by court designated workers of the Juvenile Division of the District Court. In Campbell County, the court designated worker handles 350 cases, while Teen Court handles 14 cases.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:45 a.m.