Judicial redistricting bill clears Senate committee

02/24/2016 03:48 PM

FRANKFORT – A bill which would require the state court system to balance population and caseloads throughout the state on the same schedule as legislative redistricting passed in Senate committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 8, sponsored by Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, which passed the Senate State and Local Government Committee by a 9-2 vote, would require the Supreme Court of Kentucky to recommend to the General Assembly a proposal to adjust Circuit Court and District Court districts based on caseload and population and Supreme Court districts based on population only.

The judicial redistricting would occur every 10 years, on the same schedule as legislative redistricting.

The legislation would provide a constitutional amendment where voters in the state would decide. Schickel believes that in many areas of the state, the courts don’t have the resources to deal with the caseloads.

“We all believe in equal justice under the law, but when you don’t have equal resources in your court system, in fact, in some areas, almost half of the resources that are in other areas, you don’t have equal justice under the law,” Schickel said.

The bill has been around in various forms for several years, but Schickel decided that this year it would come in the form of a constitutional amendment.

“The legislature has to look out for the best of all of Kentucky, for all 3 co-equal branches,” Schickel said. “That’s why, this year, we decided to put it in the constitution. That way, there would be no question that every 10 years there’s a responsibility for the Judicial Branch to look at their resources, and if they were out of kilter, suggest a corrective plan of action.”

Kentucky Supreme Court Justice John Minton spoke in opposition of the legislation.

Minton told committee members that that a study showed that the legislation was not necessary. Kentucky’s chief justice said that one of the findings showed that the number of court cases doesn’t necessarily increase because of population growth in a particular area.

“Surprisingly, in Boone County, has gone up tremendously in the last census report, but actually the caseloads have dropped,” Minton said. “Under a few of jurisdictions, where populations have decreased, unemployment has increased exponentially in those locales, where poverty rates are on the rise, we find that caseload numbers have increased.”

Minton also felt that conducting judicial redistricting every 10 years is unnecessary since the caseloads in any particular area tend to vary little in a decade.

“We find, looking at our statistics, caseloads do not swing over a 10-year period, so requiring the courts to redistrict every 10 years is inefficient and potentially wasteful,”
Minton said.

The bill now moves on to the full Senate chamber.


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