by Don Weber –
FRANKFORT – A bill which would implement a statewide judicial redistricting plan designed to reallocate judicial resources and relocate judges was passed by the full Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 23-13.
Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, would also add 16 family court judges but remove 15 circuit and district judges in the state judicial system.
Three of the four circuit court judges which would be removed are from eastern Kentucky while seven of the 11 district court judges are from western Kentucky.
The process began in 2014 when the General Assembly tasked the state Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), with completing a judicial workload assessment study to determine the need to rearrange the judicial circuits and districts or reallocate the number of judges relative to population and caseload.
The state contracted the National Center for State Courts (NSCS), to conduct a state-wide judicial time study in the Spring 2015 of cases in district, circuit and family court.
The judges logged time spent handling cases and taking care of judicial duties outside of court and the NSCScalculated a formula based on a time study report that included case weights and measured workloads for each phase of a case and its jurisdiction.
The formula generated an implied judicial need for each jurisdiction.
Schickel said that the plan puts the judges where the people are.
“This is a very simple concept,” Schickel said. “It has to do with two things, justice and resources. The citizens of Kentucky deserve that all people in Kentucky have equal access to the courts.”
Not all Senators were happy with the bill.
Under the plan, Boyd County would lose two of its four judges in district and circuit court, but gain a new family court and judge.
Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, who represents Boyd County, filed an unsuccessful floor amendment because she was unhappy with the process used to formulate the redistricting plan.
“It troubles me deeply we’ve not had input, we’ve not been duly advised, and we’re voting on a plan that’s had meetings with no notes,” Webb said. “I don’t like the way this is done.”
SB 9 moves on to the House for consideration.