Kentucky courts ask for major revamp of 25-year-old computer system plus new positions

02/07/2012 06:00 PM

Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton told a House budget panel Tuesday that the court system must upgrade its nearly 25-year-old computer system before it crashes for good.

“I would be derelict in my duties as chief justice if I allow the limitations of today to impede our ability to carry out our constitutional duties tomorrow,” he told the House budget review subcommittee on the judiciary.

At the heart of the Judicial Branch budget request is money for a new Case Management System to overhaul the current computer system across the commonwealth. The new system would be implemented in three phases. Minton requested authorization to sell bonds for the first phase at a cost of $2.2 million in debt service per year.

The Judicial Branch has absorbed 26 percent reduction in state appropriations and reduced its workforce by 8 percent through layoffs and attrition since 2008.

Currently, each county maintains a separate database and cannot access case information from other counties. That means 120 databases are maintained for the current case management system at the trial court level.

Separate systems and databases are maintained for the two levels of appellate courts.

“Kentucky is quickly falling behind the mainstream of court technology,” Minton said. “The new system would transform the way Kentucky courts do business. It would consolidate internal databases and give statewide systems the ability to interact with one another.”

Minton also is requesting funding to hire 25 additional pretrial officers — key players in the corrections reforms the legislature passed last year as part of House Bill 463. Those reforms are aimed at diverting drug offenders into diversion programs instead of simply locking them up.

Since those reforms were enacted, pretrial services data revealed a 15 percent decrease in the number of defendants arrested and a 4 percent increase in the
overall release rate. Pretrial services has seen a significant increase in the number of defendants ordered to the Monitored Conditional Release Program for pretrial supervision, Minton said.

Minton also requested pay raises for certain judicial jobs to make those salaries competitive with the rest of state government. Some jobs in the department pay $20,000 which is $2,400 below the poverty level for a family of four, Minton added.

Minton also requested three new Family Court judgeships, including one to solve “an untenable situation” in Knott and Magoffin counties. Minton said that he’s working to spread out caseloads to makes sure judicial resources are properly spread across the state.

Daviess County is the most populous county in the state without a Family Court.

Currently, two domestic relations commissioners hear all of the family law matters and
converting the district seat into a family seat will help domestic matters movie more quickly and effectively in that jurisdiction.


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