Kentucky would shift significant resources to its growing family court docket under a plan that would overhaul the state’s judicial system for the first time in 40 years.
Kentucky would get an additional 16 family court judges while losing 15 district and circuit court judges under a plan released Tuesday by Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton. The potentially divisive plan will be a test for the new Republican majority in the state legislature, which is scheduled to convene next month with super majorities in both chambers. If approved, the plan would go into effect in 2022 when all of the state’s judges would be on the ballot.
“We recognize there are differing opinions about how to allocate judicial resources and not everyone will agree with the proposed changes,” Minton said in a news release. “However, the Supreme Court believes this plan will move us beyond the years of inaction and provide a solid start to correcting the pockets of workload imbalances we identified across the state.”
A spokesman for Republican Senate President Robert Stivers declined to comment on the plan. Incoming Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The new family court judges would be scattered throughout the state, mostly in rural areas with the exception of Boone and Kenton counties in northern Kentucky. Of the 11 district court judges eliminated, seven are in western Kentucky. Three of the four circuit court judges eliminated are in eastern Kentucky.
Minton recommended creating one new judgeship on the family court in Lincoln, Pulaski and Rockcastle counties. He said an analysis of the caseload there showed the lone family court judge was handling the workload equivalent of 2.18 judges.
“When timely justice is compromised by unmanageably high caseloads, we must consider that a call to action,” Minton said. “Giving all citizens the same access to justice is our standard and this plan will help us fulfill that responsibility.”