State of the Judiciary: Minton calls for raises for elected judges, expungement for drug treatment and more

09/05/2014 03:26 PM

Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton said the judicial system in the state is moving forward after some trying years, but there are more initiatives ahead.

In remarks about the state of the court system Friday, Minton said the system is moving forward with increased technology initiatives which the state has lagged in, but in order to keep up with other states and attract better judges he said judges need a bump in pay.

The two-year state spending plan passed in January included raises for nearly every other judicial employee, but Minton said “inadequate judicial compensation – if left uncorrected – could become a slippery slope that diminishes the caliber of our judges for years to come.”

Judges in the state last received a one percent raise in 2008 and 2009. Minton said Kentucky judges earn 17.5 percent less than the national average, and their salaries rank seventh among those of comparable judges in the eight surrounding states.

Drug Courts

Minton also made a pitch to add an incentive to drug treatment courts. By adding a “well structured expungement process” Minton said that Drug Court graduates would give defendants an incentive to choose Drug Court.

Kentucky Drug Court is an intensive court monitored treatment program, in lieu of jail time, which lasts on average 23 months. Minton said the more defendants who choose to go through Drug Courts the better outcomes, and more savings to the state.

After the meeting, Minton explained his rationale for the program changes which he said would need to be changed by statute.

Death Penalty Review
At the hearing Minton was asked by Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, if the Supreme Court was reviewing the 2011 American Bar Association report on the death penalty in Kentucky. .

Minton said the 521 page report was being reviewed by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Review Committee to see what changes the court could change in their processes.

Chief Justice Will T. Scott chairs the review committee and Minton said Scott told him that the review should be completed soon.

Pure Politics reported on the Bar Association report findings in 2011 which found that “evidence isn’t required to be kept for the full time an inmate is behind bars. The report went on to say “lost evidence negates a separate state law that allows for re-testing DNA evidence before a death row inmate is executed.”

“The report also found that of the last 78 people sentenced to death in Kentucky, a higher court overturned the death sentence in 50 of them. The panel made a host of recommendations, including creating statewide standard for defense lawyers in death penalty cases, creating laws to preserve evidence and passing a law to prevent the mentally ill from being sentenced to death.”


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