Call to Order and Roll Call
The6th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary was held on Monday, November 19, 2012, at 10:00 AM, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Representative John Tilley, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Tom Jensen, Co-Chair; Representative John Tilley, Co-Chair; Senators Perry B. Clark, John Schickel, Brandon Smith, and Robin L. Webb; Representatives Joseph M. Fischer, Sara Beth Gregory, Joni L. Jenkins, Mary Lou Marzian, Michael J. Nemes, Steven Rudy, and Brent Yonts.
Guests: Eric Sherman, USA4MilitaryFamilies Program; John D. Minton, Jr., Chief Justice, and Will T. Scott, Justice, Kentucky Supreme Court; Judge David Holton, Jefferson District Court; Connie Neal, Manager, Drug Court, Administrative Office of the Courts; and Colonel David Thompson, Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs.
The minutes of the October 5, 2012 meeting were approved without objection.
Colonel David Dellinger welcomed the committee to Fort Campbell. He said Fort Campbell has 31,000 active duty military service members, 48,000 family members, provides education to 5,000 children on base, and 15,000 children are educated in Christian County, Kentucky and Montgomery County, Tennessee. Fort Campbell contributes $4.5 billion annually to the economies of Kentucky and Tennessee. He thanked the committee for coming to Fort Campbell and encouraged them to ask questions and participate in the planned activities.
Chairman Tilley welcomed Representative Tanya Pullen, chair of the Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, to the meeting and commended her for her efforts on behalf of active duty military and veterans in Kentucky.
Eric Sherman, SE Region State Liaison, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, gave an overview of the USA 4 Military Families Initiative. The goal of the Department of Defense (DoD) State Liaison Program is to educate policy makers and participate in state level discussions on issues affecting service members and their families. Issues include removing licensure impediments for separating service members to allow them to transition back into civilian jobs, encouraging states to allow military education and training as credit toward licensing requirements, encouraging states to allow academic credit for military education and training, working with state governments to align state child care rating systems with DoD child care requirements to provide quality child care options for military families, establishing veterans treatment courts to address veterans suffering from substance abuse and behavioral health problems, encouraging states to address predatory lending practices which target military service members and their families, and clarification of state statutes on disposition of human remains.
In response to questions from Representative Marzian and Senator Smith, Mr. Sherman said the four Kentucky zip codes most densely packed with payday lenders are all near Fort Campbell and Fort Knox, the stateís only two military bases. There are 18 payday lenders near Fort Campbell and 22 payday lenders near Fort Knox. Payday lenders target members of the military because they know they receive a guaranteed check every two weeks, and if there is a problem, they can contact the base command who will make sure the problem is resolved. Even though Kentucky has an interest rate cap of 17 percent, the legislature has authorized payday lenders to charge ďfeesĒ which equate to up to an interest rate of 459 percent. He said payday lenders around military bases are also known for changing the terms of the contract which can lead to severe financial hardships for the service member.
Another area of concern for service members and their families is the disposition of human remains designation. All service members must update their designation annually and before deployment. There have been problems when family members or state statutes disagree with the soldierís designation of who decides what to do with their remains in the event of death. He suggested Kentucky law be amended to state the person designated by the decedent on the U. S. Department of Defense Record of Emergency Data, DD Form 93, shall have the primary authority and responsibility for the final disposition of the decedentís remains.
Military personnel, veterans and the Kentucky Court of Justice
John D. Minton, Jr., Chief Justice, Kentucky Supreme Court, said the Kentucky Access to Justice Commission was created in 2010 to identify barriers to justice in Kentucky and make recommendations to ensure citizens can access the court system across the state. Justice Will T. Scott, a veteran, was named Chairman of the Veterans Subcommittee to make sure veterans have access to all the services authorized by Congress.
Justice Scott told the members it is estimated there are 22.2 million veterans in the United States, and 335,700 in Kentucky. He said Jefferson County has the largest veteran population in Kentucky, and as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan come to a close, the veteran population will continue to grow and some will struggle with the transition to civilian life. In response to these statistics, the Administrative Office of the Courts is collaborating with several agencies to implement the Jefferson County Veterans Treatment Court (VTC), the first of its kind in Kentucky. Funded by a three-year grant from the Veterans Justice Administration, the VTC will use case managers to assist veterans entering the criminal justice system, offering comprehensive evidence-based services to help them achieve stable mental health and recover from addiction. Another component of the VTC is to collect data on the number of veterans entering the Kentucky criminal justice system, whether they served in combat, and what they are charged with, so services and assistance can be tailored to meet their needs. He said jails do not ask if the incarcerated person is a veteran and do not offer to help the veteran access available services.
Thanks to the help of Representative Pullen, Kentucky now has veteranís driverís licenses, so law enforcement is immediately aware of the veteranís status. The uniform citation form, which is the entry point for a person entering the criminal justice system, has been changed to include veteranís information. That allows the jails to know immediately if a veteran is in custody and whether the veteran should be provided veteransí services and assistance. The Administrative Office of the Courts is redesigning its database to allow the county clerk to produce a list of all veterans in the court system, so veterans who are attorneys can provide pro bono legal services, and veteranís advocates can assist them as they go through the justice system. He said Judge Kimberly Shumate headed up the effort to develop Tier One veteranís courts for urban areas and is working on a Tier Two model for rural areas. Circuit judges will preside over veterans-only dockets and provide veterans with services and options. Another effort of the Veterans Subcommittee is educating judges around the state on what services are available for veterans through the Department of Defense and how to access them. He said veterans status is now included on pretrial forms so that information can be shared by the entire court system.
Representative Yonts said judges should be mandated to participate in veterans courts. Justice Scott said initially he is looking for voluntary participation. He said Tennessee has already established a veteranís court program, which will hopefully pressure Kentucky judges to follow their lead. He said the Commission is looking at establishing a veteranís court in Christian County because of the number of soldiers at Fort Campbell, but the final decision is based on the number of veterans living in the county.
In response to a question from Representative Jenkins about whether the same veteranís services are offered to victims of crime, Justice Scott said there is no difference in accessing services whether the veteran is the perpetrator or the victim.
Judge David Holton, Jefferson District Court, said he is honored to preside over Kentuckyís first Veterans Treatment Court. Returning service members face a number of problems including homelessness, unemployment, mental health problems such as post traumatic stress syndrome and traumatic brain injuries, depression and suicide, and substance abuse. A 2000 Bureau of Justice report found that 81 percent of all veterans involved in the justice system had a substance abuse problem prior to incarceration. He said the services of the Veterans Treatment Court are also available to veterans living outside Jefferson County.
Connie Payne, Manager, Drug Court, Veterans Treatment Court pilot project, said judges across the state are committed to veteranís treatment courts. She said AOC must target areas with enough veterans to support a veterans docket for it to be successful. She said changes to the AOC database to identify veterans in the court system will help develop new courts and train judges to operate them.
Representative Tilley said there is a great need for a veteranís treatment court in Christian County and Ms. Payne said Christian County is in the top four to get one established. She encouraged everyone to light a fire under their circuit judges to build support for establishing veteranís treatment courts. Chief Justice Minton said Fort Campbell is unique because it straddles the Kentucky-Tennessee border. He said Montgomery County, Tennessee has already established a veteranís treatment court, which increases pressure to mirror that in Christian County. He said the court system is being cautious about creating another level of courts, similar to drug courts which are now statewide.
Senator Schickel said the court system was set up to provide justice to the citizens and should be very careful about moving into providing social services, which is not the courtsí role in society. He said it is a slippery slope as there first was a family court, then a drug court, mental health court, and now veteranís court. He said the justice system seems to be moving outside its judicial responsibility.
Justice Scott responded said the VTC are being established to develop a better way to serve veterans and increase the use of already available services through the Department of Defense. He noted these are not preferential services for veterans. Senator Webb said the Veterans Administration funds and provides the services, which has a positive fiscal impact for states. Ms. Neal said the courts are more successful in forcing a veteran into getting assistance with much better outcomes. She said the courts are also looking at partnering with community-based services agencies to keep veterans out of the court system entirely.
Behavioral Health for Kentucky Veterans, Service Members and their Families: The Way Ahead
Colonel David Thompson, Director, Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs, discussed behavioral health services for veterans, service members and their families. In August 2012, Governor Beshear created the Kentucky Strategic Action Plan, with the goal of increasing access to appropriate and effective behavioral health services for service members, veterans and their families, maximizing the quality of services and efficiently allocating resources, sustaining a stable and health environment, and collecting data to support decision making. The Veterans Crisis Line has been established to help service members access needed services for depression and suicide prevention, alcohol and substance abuse, and domestic abuse.
Representative Tilley commended Senator Jensen for his long-time service to the state, General Assembly, and as co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Senator Jensen said it was an honor to serve in the legislature and he has every faith Representative Tilley will continue to lead the Judiciary Committee in the right direction.
The meeting adjourned at 11:45 a.m.