Chief Justice Minton says judges need higher wages, will present judicial redistricting plan next legislative session

09/23/2016 05:12 PM

FRANKFORT – A plan to redistrict the state’s court system will be presented to the General Assembly next session in hopes of bringing more parity to judicial caseloads, Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John D. Minton told the interim joint Judiciary Committee on Friday.

Minton, who complimented lawmakers and Gov. Matt Bevin for the two-year budget passed this year, has been a vocal advocate for judicial pay raises in recent budget-writing sessions. His request to increase the jurists’ salaries as lawmakers crafted the current biennial budget during this year’s session failed, but Minton made clear that he will continue the push in 2018.

Judges in Kentucky are the lowest paid compared to their peers in neighboring states, Minton said. Salaries range from $112,668 for district court judges and $140,504 for chief justice of the Supreme Court, with only marginal raises since 2007.

“Stagnant salaries have left many of our current judges feeling discouraged and undervalued,” Minton said during his state of the judiciary address. “It also provides little incentive, really, for the best and the brightest lawyers to leave a lucrative law practice and mount an expensive campaign for election to judicial office.”

“The longer we postpone any action on this, mister chairman, the more difficult it will be to make up for the lost ground on wages and avoid sacrificing the quality of the future of Kentucky’s judiciary.

Minton’s push for paying judges more had support from some members of the judiciary panel, such as Rep. Lew Nicholls, a retired circuit court judge.

“I know the good work that they do, and I know how competent they are,” said Nicholls, D-Greenup. “I’ve seen it, and I had more of an opportunity to see that as a senior judge when I started traveling throughout northeastern Kentucky doing that.”

Judicial redistricting will be a more pressing topic for lawmakers, however.

Minton says he will present a comprehensive redistricting plan circuit, district and family courts for the General Assembly’s consideration in the upcoming legislative session. The Administrative Office of the Courts is working with the National Center for State Courts as well as the Judicial Workload Assessment Committee, a panel appointed by Minton that includes judges, circuit court clerks, prosecutors and legislators, on a redistricting strategy, Minton said.

A subcommittee of the JWAC is drafting recommendations that is expected to take until 2030, when terms for all judges and prosecutors will pass, to fully implement, he said.

“This proposal will look at, first of all, addressing what we call the hotspots,” Minton said.

“These are places across the state where we would identify areas that are in obvious need, obvious existence of disparate caseloads that require attention in the short-term. The subcommittee’s looking at a proposal that aligns judicial circuit and district boundary lines at are currently different … and finally to provide a plan to phase in family court, which would fulfill the constitutional mandate of having family court sit statewide.”

Minton says he hopes that judicial redistricting becomes “an ongoing effort at AOC to make sure that we stay current.”

“I would expect that in the future we won’t wait so long for things to even out,” he told reporters. “We’ll just keep this matter under review periodically and report back to the General Assembly.”

Minton also discussed the courts’ efforts in implementing new legislation, such as low-level felony expungement and juvenile justice reform, and moving to a statewide electronic filing system.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.



  • viewer wrote on September 24, 2016 01:56 PM :

    One thing that Judge Minton gave a statistic on, in this hearing, really stood out to me. I don’t know if I heard the right numbers, but I thought Judge Minton said that in 2015 there were 26,800 DUI arrests in the state of Kentucky. If I heard that correctly, those numbers are stunning. 10,000 DUI arrests is high, but if it is that high, then we have 2 or 3 hundred thousand impaired drivers on our roadways each year. This needs to get more public attention. Excellent work by law enforcement for getting that many impaired drivers off of our roads.

    Also, this week, I would like to give a tremendous amount of credit to Rep. Tom Burch. Tom Burch held a committee hearing to bring attention to the state of affairs going on with our social workers across the state. I cannot give enough credit to Tom Burch, all the committee members, and especially all those who testified on this crisis we are facing. Rep. Tom Burch set the tone, on the onset, by stating this was a 30 year old problem, and he didn’t want anyone, either party or the Bevin administration, to be made the escape goat. This hearing is exactly what we need for change, and the tone that Tom Burch took led to truth and wisdom being spoken for 3 continuous hours. If you haven’t seen this hearing, I highly recommend you going to and viewing it.

    Friends, we all know we have to do better for the children than we have up to this point. This hearing brought out a lot of the warts that are on going with this Cabinet. My own personal take is this Cabinet is way too big. It needs to be broken down to a manageable size. I have thought this for years. The beauty of this hearing was for all the negative, everyone I spoke with is feeling positive that changes will be coming in the future. This is a rarity in politics and public institutions. Everyone seems to have faith in Tim Feeley and Adria Johnson’s leadership potential. I have to say that I am right there with them. Judge Feeley’s history shows what he is capable of, and the integrity that he brings to this office. Adria Johnson is highly thought of and not afraid to work around the clock. She cares about her staff. She cares that these kids are taken care of. That is a sign of a leader. Look for good things and a lot of changes coming soon, to this agency.

    At the end of this hearing, Rep. Robert Benvenuti suggested that we use retired KSP to help with investigations and security, at these social service offices. I have said the same thing for years. A lot of these situations that the social workers go into are highly volatile. The KSP has one of the best academies in the nation. Over the years, law enforcement sees signs of child abuse that not everyone recognizes. Sen. Westerfield and Sen. Julie Raque Adams need to look into this further. Let’s see if we can get something going here and get these social workers some help. The viewer.

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