Call to Order and Roll Call
The6th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary was held on Friday, December 9, 2011, at 10:00 AM, in Room 171 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Tom Jensen, Chair, called the meeting to order, the secretary called the roll, and a quorum was present.
Members:Senator Tom Jensen, Co-Chair; Representative John Tilley, Co-Chair; Senators Perry B. Clark, Carroll Gibson, Ray S. Jones II, John Schickel, Dan "Malano" Seum, Katie Kratz Stine, and Robin L. Webb; Representatives Jesse Crenshaw, Joseph M. Fischer, Kelly Flood, Sara Beth Gregory, Joni L. Jenkins, Mary Lou Marzian, Michael J. Nemes, Tom Riner, and Steven Rudy.
Guests: Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr.; Laurie Dudgeon, Leslie Brown, Leigh Anne Hiatt, Administrative Office of the Courts; and Marti White, Kentucky Spirit.
The minutes of the October 7, 2011 meeting were approved without objection by voice vote.
Representative Tilley noted Representative Yonts was absent from the meeting because he was participating in the State Leaders’ National Forum on Reentry and Recidivism in Washington D.C.
State of the Judiciary Report
Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr., Kentucky Supreme Court, presented the 2011 State of the Judiciary Report. He introduced members of the Court of Appeals, Circuit Judges, Family Court Judges, District Judges, Circuit Clerks, and the staff of the Administrative Office of the Courts, who were attending the meeting. The Chief Justice complimented the General Assembly for placing him on the Task Force on the Penal Code and Controlled Substances Act, giving each branch of government representation in the development of 2011 HB 463.
Chief Justice Minton began his presentation by describing achievements of the Court of Justice, including implementation of 2011 HB 463, which required fundamental culture changes in the courts. Implementation included developing new legal forms, a revised accounting manual, pretrial and other procedures, and the training of judges, clerks, pretrial officers, and other participants in the court system on the provisions of HB 463 and its implementation. The Chief Justice complimented Senator Jensen and Representative Tilley for making themselves available for these training sessions and responding to questions about the bill.
The Chief Justice described the successes of HB 463 in the first five months of its implementation, including a 15 percent decrease in arrested defendants, four percent increase in the overall release rate, 50 percent to 67 percent increase in non-financial releases of low-and moderate-risk defendants prior to trial, a 738 person decrease in pretrial jail population, and no increases in the number of persons not appearing for trial or committing new crimes while on pretrial release. There has been an increase in the number of pretrial releasees being placed on monitored conditional release by 1,285 persons, resulting in 4,493 defendant call-in reports, 3,934 additional curfew checks, 2,642 additional drug tests, and 6,737 additional office visit reports, resulting in much higher levels of activity for pretrial release officers. The Chief Justice indicated a need for 25 additional pretrial release officers and an increase in pay for the existing officers who are leaving for higher paying jobs with the Department of Corrections.
Other successes included a reorganization of the Jefferson District Court which has increased case dispositions, decreased waiting times for trial, and evened the caseloads for judges who hear 400,000 cases per year, new uniform rules for Family Court practice which were developed under the guidance of Deputy Chief Justice Mary Noble, the initiation of a Best Practices/Model Court initiative for improving outcomes for out-of-home care of children by the Department of Juvenile and Family Services of the Administrative Office of the Courts which is now active in seven counties, the increase in the eWarrants system to 113 counties with the assistance of the Attorney General, Department of Kentucky State Police, Kentucky Office of Homeland Security and Open Portal Solutions, implementation of a statewide jury management system, and the Day on the Bench program which encourages judges to invite legislators to view court activities for a day to have a better understanding of the court system.
The Chief Justice described the needs of the courts as including redistricting of Supreme Court districts to be more equal in population and caseload, which would also include the Court of Appeals since it uses the same districts, and dealing with needs of the winding down and eventual elimination of the senior status judge program which allowed retired judges to fill in for judges who could not hear a particular case or were covering dockets for them and to assist judges in reducing caseloads.
Budget items for the new biennium include a compensation plan for court employees, a new technology system which will link all 120 counties in one system replacing 120 separate obsolete systems which will provide for improved case management and record keeping at a cost of $2.2 million in debt service each year, adding twenty-five new pretrial officers and improving pretrial officer salaries, full funding for the Judicial Form Retirement System which was not fully funded in the last budget cycle at a cost of $10.8 million each year, adding new Family Court judgeships in two circuits, converting one District Court judgeship to a Family Court judgeship, and building new judicial centers in Henry County and Nicholas Counties.
Senator Jensen complimented the Chief Justice on his presentation and implementation of HB 463.
Senator Gibson asked about reported problems with the test for persons desiring to run for Circuit Clerk. Laurie Dudgeon, AOC Director, responded there were problems with some test booklets containing answers written in and others where the answer sheets did not have the same number of available answers as did the questions. She told the committee there will be retesting at several locations. In response to a question from Representative Crenshaw, she said the cost of additional pretrial officers would be about $2.1 million each year of the biennium. Senator Webb complimented the Chief Justice on the implementation of HB 463 and expressed approval of the Senior Status Judge program. Senator Jensen asked about population changes and caseloads affecting the Circuit Courts and the District Courts, and the Chief Justice responded the court system is working on the issue. He noted there are great caseload disparities but the issue is complicated because each change in Circuits Districts also affects the Commonwealth's Attorney.
The meeting adjourned at 11:55 a.m.