Call to Order and Roll Call
The1st meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary was held on Thursday, January 31, 2013, at 1:00 PM, in Room 171 of the Capitol Annex. Representative John Tilley, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Whitney Westerfield, Co-Chair; Representative John Tilley, Co-Chair; Senators Perry B. Clark, Sara Beth Gregory, Ray S. Jones II, John Schickel, Dan "Malano" Seum, Robert Stivers II, and Robin L. Webb; Representatives Robert Benvenuti III, Joni L. Jenkins, Stan Lee, Mary Lou Marzian, Darryl T. Owens, Ryan Quarles, Tom Riner, Kevin Sinnette, Gerald Watkins, and Brent Yonts.
Guests: Judge Lucinda Masterton, Kentucky Child Support Guidelines Review Commission; Angela Antone, Jefferson County Assistant Director for Child Support; Dr. John Hollis; Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr., Kentucky Supreme Court; Secretary J. Michael Brown, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet; Larry Chandler and John Cummings, Kentucky Parole Board; Ernie Lewis, Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Ed Monahan, Department of Public Advocacy; Chris Cohron, Kentucky Commonwealth’s Attorneys Association; Laurie Dudgeon, Administrative Office of the Courts, Shellie Hampton, Kentucky Association of Counties; Representative Julie Raque Adams; Debbie Mosqua; Carolyn Sharp; Frank Anglin, Sovereign Watchdogs; Jan Gould, Kentucky Retail Federation; Bill Doll, Kentucky Medical Association; Bill Patrick, Kentucky County Attorneys Association; Leigh Ann Hiatt and Jamie Neal, Administrative Office of the Courts; and Allyson Taylor, Attorney General’s Office.
Child Support Update
Judge Lucinda Masterton, Angela Antone, Jefferson County Assistant Director for Child Support, and Dr. John Hollis discussed the findings and recommendations of the Kentucky Child Support Guidelines Review Commission. The commission developed proposals to update the calculation table, extend the upper limits, and provide a formula for shared custody. Judge Masterton said the Kentucky child support guidelines have not been changed since 1989 and are based on 1987 data. The commission was assisted by Dr. Troske, University of Kentucky, who issued a report in 1988. The recommendations have been submitted to the General Assembly every session since then without success. The recommendations would provide a formula for guiding the courts in child support decisions at no cost to the state. She asked the members to support legislation to implement these recommendations.
Court of Justice Update
Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr., Kentucky Supreme Court, gave the 2013 State of the Judiciary Address. He recognized Justice Wil Schroeder, who recently announced his retirement from the Supreme Court after thirty years of judicial service. Justice Minton reviewed the judicial system budget, which has been reduced 48 percent since 2008. During 2012, all non-elected employees were furloughed for three days for a savings of $1.2 million. The court system is facing a $25.2 million shortfall in FY13 and an additional $28.7 million shortfall in FY14. These continuing reductions are seriously affecting the court’s ability to swiftly and efficiently deliver justice to all Kentuckians. About 86 percent of the judicial budget is dedicated to personnel, leaving very little room to lower costs without reducing the workforce.
He discussed the need to update the court system’s aging court case management system. The current case management system is based on technology that is nearly 25 years old and is running on programming which is more than ten years old. Maintenance of the system has been unsupported since 2008. The existing system supports 120 databases in each county at the trial court level, and separate systems and databases at the appellate court level. None of the systems can communicate with each other, which means information cannot be shared among counties or levels of the court system. The system is at risk of catastrophic failure. The last judicial budget recommendation included language for authority to bond the first phase of a new case management system to become the foundation for Kentucky to adopt e-filing. He is hopeful that this bonding authority can be revived and approved during the 2013 Regular Session.
The Jefferson County Veterans Treatment Court was established in November 2012, the first of its kind in Kentucky. This unique resource for veterans in Jefferson County gives veterans access to treatment and support services to help them stabilize their mental health and recover from addition. The team includes judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, treatment providers, veterans outreach specialists and others dedicated to providing important services to veterans. The project is funded by a three-year $350,000 grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice. It is anticipated 25-30 veterans will be served annually. If the court system is able to secure additional grant funds, he would like to establish veterans courts in Hardin, Fayette, and Christian counties, where the majority of Kentucky veterans live.
The cap on Drug Court participants has been lifted, partly the result of House Bill 463, which created additional alternatives including deferred prosecution and presumptive probation for low-risk defendants who have had limited contact with the court system. These new sentencing alternatives have significantly reduced the number of participants entering Drug Court. He is encouraging Drug Court judges to give special consideration to accepting high-risk/high-need individuals, based on research showing these participants respond well to drug court programs.
The court system has taken steps to reduce high employee turnover in pretrial services. The previous pretrial 12-hour presentation rule has been changed to reflect a 24-hour presentation rule. Kentucky is the only state requiring a specific timeframe after arrest to complete an investigation and make recommendations to the court. House Bill 463 mandated a significant increase in pretrial services, supervisory caseloads, and defendant contacts. This rule change has reduced employee turnover in Pretrial Services.
2011 House Bill 463 Update
Secretary J. Michael Brown, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, said since implementation of House Bill 463, intake and admissions into the Department of Corrections have been lower than forecast, mandatory reentry supervision (MRS) releases have been greater than forecast, the felon population is higher than forecast but would have been much higher without the initiatives in the legislation, and parole grant rates have been below forecasted rates but the FY 13 numbers appear more promising with a 52.94 percent average grant rate.
House Bill 463 revised the controlled substances statutes to place a greater emphasis on treatment programs. The number of Department of Corrections’ substance abuse beds has increased by 890 to a total treatment capacity of 3,859. There is a waiting list of 2,116 offenders; of those, 330 have been ordered by the Parole Board to complete the program prior to release on parole. The number of substance abuse vendors has increased, who must offer evidence based programs to qualify.
One of the successes of House Bill 463 has been implementation of the mandatory reentry supervision (MRS) component. To date, 3,627 offenders have been released to MRS with a 15.3 percent recidivism rate for violations. The Cabinet estimates a savings of $9.3 million in the first thirteen months of implementation, and anticipates even greater savings as the provisions are fully implemented. The Division of Probation and Parole now supervises 42,625 people, including court diversions, parolees, misdemeanants, MRS, post incarceration supervision, sex offender post incarceration, and interstate compact cases. Counties have also realized savings because of citation only arrests while court appearances have increased. The Cabinet is hopeful the current high intake levels will taper off as the courts fully implement the provisions of HB 463. Chairman Tilley commended Secretary Brown for his dedication to the successful implementation of the legislation.
Larry Chandler and John Cummings, Kentucky Parole Board, assured the committee the Parole Board has complied with all provisions of House Bill 463. They noted Parole Board decisions are impacted by Department of Corrections’ implementation of the LS/CMI assessment tools. He urged the committee to review the 2011 Parole Board Annual Report provided to the members.
Ernie Lewis, Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, agreed that implementation of House Bill 463 has been successful, but noted it will need further refinements as problems and issues are identified. His recommendations to further reduce the number of Kentuckians in the corrections system include reclassifying nonviolent felonies and misdemeanors, reducing the number of sentences in the 85 percent parole category, reforming persistent felony offender laws, replacing the death penalty with a life without parole sentence, increasing funding for the public defender system, increasing the theft limit to $1000, and decriminalizing nonsupport. These recommendations could free resources for other necessary programs in Kentucky.
Ed Monahan, Department of Public Advocacy, said implementation of House Bill 463 has maintained public safety while advancing the fiscal security of the state. Both release rates and safety rates went up with no decrease in appearance rates. Counties have saved over $25 million in jail costs. His recommendations to enhance House Bill 463 include presumption of parole or mandatory parole for eligible low risk offenders, expanding judicial discretion for expungement of low level felonies, adjusting persistent felony offender/violent offender statutes, creating a new gross misdemeanor classification, establishing a legal standard for clear and convincing evidence for pretrial release decisions, reclassifying minor offenses to violations or civil infractions, and increasing funding for the DPA Alternative Sentencing Social Worker program to aid pretrial release, alternative sentencing and reentry.
Chris Cohron, Commonwealth’s Attorney Association, agreed House Bill 463 has been successful but is only the first step toward comprehensive reform of the penal code. He said House Bill 463 focused on defendants and now we need to address crime victims. The only ones who can calculate the length of sentences are inmates. It is time to revamp the truth in sentencing system and move toward a determinate sentencing model or create a 50 percent category for parole eligibility. Other issues needing attention include synthetic drugs, a statewide gang activity database, and increased funding for prosecutors offices across the state. He said 90 percent of a prosecutor’s current budget is for personnel costs, so any future budget reductions will reduce staffing levels.
Laurie Dudgeon, Director, Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), said since implementation of House Bill 463, pretrial release rates have increased, court appearances have increased, public safety rates have increased, and continuing education for judges is ongoing. Monitored conditional release for defendants topped 11,000 in 2012, a savings of $9.3 million for county jails. Deferred prosecution is being used in only 25 counties, and AOC is hopeful it will expand to additional counties. AOC is concerned about declining participants in Drug Court programs and is committed to additional training and education to include more high risk offenders.
Shellie Hampton, Kentucky Association of Counties, said the number one priority is additional funding for the local corrections assistance fund to address catastrophic medical expenses.
Shock Probation and DUI Involved Cases
Representative Julie Raque Adams discussed House Bill 28, which would prohibit shock probation for DUI-related offenses. Debbie Mosqua and Carolyn Sharp, who both lost family members to drunk drivers, spoke in support of the bill. Representative Adams said the legislation has been introduced several times, and she is hopeful for passage during the 2013 General Assembly.
The meeting adjourned at 3:20 p.m.