Politics

The chief justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court will ask lawmakers during the upcoming legislative session to redraw judicial boundaries in the state to ease heavy caseloads in some local courts.

Chief Justice John Minton said that current judicial boundaries haven’t been redrawn since 1976 and judicial circuits, districts and family courts across the state have disproportionate caseloads because of population differences.

“There’s no question that the commonwealth has gone through a significant number of changes during that time in terms of caseload and population,” Minton said. “And, frankly, we’re learning that the court system has not always kept up with those changes.”

During a meeting Wednesday of the Interim Joint Committee on State Government, Minton didn’t present a proposal for new boundaries, but said a committee of judges, clerks, prosecutors and legislators had voted on a plan that the state Supreme Court and eventually the legislature would review.

Under Minton’s plan, which wouldn’t go into effect until 2022, the total number of judicial circuits in the state would be reduced from 57 to 55. Some boundary lines that designate court jurisdictions would be redrawn and a limited number of circuit judge positions would be moved to family courts.

Family courts would also be extended to most parts of the state.

The request comes on the heels of a National Center for State Courts study, which had circuit, family and district judges log how much time they spent handling caseloads, showing some discrepancies across the state.

Last year, the state Senate passed a bill that would have reviewed judicial boundaries in the same years that legislative redistricting takes place.

Some lawmakers raised concerns that such a plan would reapportion judges out of rural areas where populations have decreased over the last half century.

The bill wasn’t taken up by the House.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.