Call to Order and Roll Call
The4th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary was held on Wednesday, September 8, 2010, at 9:00 AM, at the Old Laurel County Courthouse, London, Kentucky. †Senator Tom Jensen, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Tom Jensen, Co-Chair; Senators Perry B. Clark, Mike Reynolds, John Schickel, Dan "Malano" Seum, and Jack Westwood; Representatives Kelly Flood, Thomas Kerr, Mary Lou Marzian, Harry Moberly Jr., Darryl T. Owens, and Tom Riner.
Guests:† Billy Dahlin; Bill Patrick, KY County Attorneys Association; and Roy Crawford.
Senator Jensen called the meeting to order, the roll was called and a quorum was not present.
The first speaker was London Mayor Troy Rudder who welcomed the committee to London, Kentucky and thanked the members for attending. The second speaker was Laurel County Judge-Executive Lawrence Kuhl who welcomed the committee to the Old Laurel County Courthouse where the meeting was held.
Kentucky Court of Justice Presentation
The primary speaker for the meeting was Chief Justice John J. Minton, Jr. of the Supreme Court of Kentucky. Chief Justice Minton was joined at the table by Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Jeff Taylor from Henderson; Circuit Judges Association President Larry Thompson, a Family Court Judge from Pike County; District Judges Association President Karen Thomas, a Chief Regional District Judge from Campbell County; McLean County Circuit Clerk Stephanie Logsdon of the Circuit Clerks Association, and Laurie Dudgeon, Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Chief Justice Minton gave an overview of the court system in Kentucky, noting Kentucky has one of the few unified court systems in the nation, funded almost exclusively by appropriations from the General Assembly.† Prior to adoption of the Judicial Article in 1976, Kentuckyís courts were funded entirely by fines, fees and court costs.† Since 1976, the courts no longer have to generate their own funding which has eliminated the corrupting influence of judges paid from the fines they imposed
Chief Justice Minton said the court system generated $143.6 million in Fiscal Year 2010, nearly half of its total budget of $290 million.† The stateís budget deficit necessitated layoffs and elimination of several programs, reducing the court systemís budget by $6.8 million.† He anticipates further cuts in FY 2012. He gave an overview of several court system programs, including drug court, pretrial services, truancy diversion programs, and foster care review boards, and noted these programs provide wraparound services to the citizens of Kentucky.
Chief Justice Minton said drug court was established statewide in 1996 and was one of the first drug court programs in the United States. †He is the only Chief Justice in the United States with drug court experience, gained during his tenure as Circuit Judge in Warren County. Initially drug courts were funded by federal grants, but since 2006, funding has come from the General Assembly supplemented by federal grants. Chief Justice Minton told the committee drug court saves the state $4 for each $1 invested in the drug court program, saving the state approximately $56 million in jail and prison costs. †To date, there have been 3,900 graduates from the drug court program.† More importantly, drug court turns people from a life of substance abuse into productive citizens and is just one of the wraparound programs implemented by the Court of Justice.
The pretrial services program was created by the court system upon abolishment of commercial bail bonding in Kentucky. †Pretrial release officers interview persons in jail, make bail and pretrial release recommendations to judges, and monitor persons on pretrial release to ensure they are complying with the provisions of release. Chief Justice Minton indicated that 64 percent of arrestees are released prior to trial, saving counties millions of dollars in pretrial incarceration costs. Recently, the risk assessment tool used by pretrial release officers has been validated by a national pretrial release organization.
Other court programs include teen court, mock trial, juvenile services through court designated workers, truancy diversion programs which return students to school and have resulted in 10 percent to 85 percent reductions in truancy, and foster care review boards, which have helped the state reduce the length of time children stay in foster care by sixteen months.
Chief Justice Minton said his number one goal for the Court of Justice is updating the courtís computer technology.† The court system has fallen behind in its computer technology over the last ten years and his goal is to develop a system to meet the needs of todayís citizens.† He wants a system that will support electronic filing of cases, issuance of electronic warrants, allow citizens to pay fines and fees with credit and debit cards, and a system to identify funds owed to the court system but not collected, track payment of restitution, and other fiscal matters. †Many courts still use paper case files and use a computer system that is no longer supported by the computer vendor.
Kentucky was one of the first court systems to utilize television in the courtrooms to avoid the necessity for court reporters, but the Chief Justice said the equipment has not been upgraded and needs replacement. Senator Jensen asked about recent reported television equipment failures in Jefferson County. Ms. Dudgeon responded the problem involved older equipment, inadequate training, and not properly testing the system prior to use.† The estimated cost for upgrading the equipment in Jefferson County is $1 million.
Representative Flood commended the judges for the many hours they volunteer to the operation of drug court, teen court, foster care review and other programs.† She urged the courts to update their programs to permit electronic filing of cases and payment of traffic tickets on line.† Ms. Dudgeon responded that efficiency and accountability are the goals of the new improvements.
Representative Kerr observed he had practiced law under both the old and new court systems and that he much preferred the new system.† He asked how much it will cost to implement an electronic case filing system and what the savings might be. Ms. Dudgeon said they are looking at a cost-neutral system and plan to do much of the technology upgrades internally, but she estimated the cost of the new system between $5-10 million.† Chief Justice Minton said the number one capital improvement for the Court of Justice is upgrading their technology system to meet the changing needs of the public.
Senator Schickel said he is concerned the court system is losing its focus, which is to protect the constitution and provide fair trials to the citizens of Kentucky, and that social programs, may detract from basic court functions. Chief Justice Minton assured Senator Schickel the primary focus of the court system remains on the efficient handling of cases on the bench, protecting constitutional rights, and keeping a focus on court business. Circuit Judge Thompson agreed with the protection of constitutional rights but said the court system needs to offer services to its constituents to help solve their problems and to reduce recidivism.† These programs reduce dockets, reduce the number of court appearances of clients, saves money for the school systems through the truancy diversion programs, and family court gets services to families in need. Judge Thomas said upholding the constitution is a core function. Prior to implementation of the new programs, there was a revolving door of sending people to jail with no solution to their problems.
Senator Schickel said he is also concerned about the allocation of resources and staff among the various court offices, and the disparity of caseloads between the various court programs. Ms. Dudgeon said budget limitations and reductions have necessitated staff reductions in family courts and elsewhere throughout the court system. Several judges said they are attempting to deal with staffing problems by cross training remaining staff so they can better assist in the handling of court business.† Chief Justice Minton indicated staffing levels and salaries will be reviewed statewide in the next six months to make sure all programs have sufficient staff and resources to operate the courts efficiently and serve the citizens of Kentucky.
Senator Reynolds asked about the percentage of cases moving from the circuit courts to the Court of Appeals which are civil or criminal.† Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Taylor discussed oral arguments and their impact on the docket of cases being reviewed by the Court.† He said about half of the cases are civil and half are criminal, and about 25 percent are reversed on appeal.
Senator Westwood asked if the courts could provide a list of programs, costs, and savings from the social programs, and related information for both the short term and long term. Chief Justice Minton responded the information would be provided.
Senator Seum expressed concern about the large number of unserved warrants, particularly in Jefferson County, and noted newly enacted statutes are frequently unfunded mandates for the courts.† A 2005 study revealed there were 360,000 outstanding warrants, 15,000 in Jefferson County, and many persons coming before the courts have outstanding warrants on their records.† The courts are filled with new cases at the expense of service of warrants.† He asked if implementation of the electronic warrant system would improve service of warrants. Ms. Dudgeon responded the initial electronic warrant system was implemented in Jefferson County with federal grant money and will be expanded to other counties upon receipt of a $4 million homeland security grant. Ms. Dudgeon indicated e-warrants will be available to law enforcement officers statewide and will improve the service of warrants once the system is completely implemented.
Senator Jensen thanked everyone for attending the meeting and encouraged them to participate in the tour of the new Laurel County Judicial Center and then return to the Old Courthouse for lunch.† He also informed the committee that Representative Yonts was unable to attend the meeting because he is on a trade mission to Taiwan with Senator Ridley representing the Commonwealth.
Senator Jensen thanked Ms. Logsdon, representing the Circuit Clerks Association, for attending the meeting.† He asked if service of emergency protective orders endangers staff of the circuit clerksí offices.† Ms. Logsdon responded that many times law enforcement is present during their meetings with victims and family members.† Chief Justice Minton told the committee about his recent letter to House Speaker Greg Stumbo detailing the courtís implementation of the provisions of House Bill 1 (Amanda's Law).† He said he would provide a copy of the letter to the members.
Executive Reorganization Order 2010-697-Justice and Public Safety Cabinet
Due to lack of a quorum, action on Executive Order 2010-697 relating to reorganization of parole functions within the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet was deferred to the next meeting.
The meeting adjourned at 11:05 a.m.