Chief Justice talks pay parity, facility repairs in judiciary address

With the Kentucky General Assembly set to resume in January, state Chief of Justice, Laurance VanMeter gave his first address to the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary on Friday in Frankfort, where he shared his concerns regarding pay parity, court facility updates and attorney shortages in rural communities.

To start his address VanMeter says he appreciates the pay raises those in his government branch received over the last two years, but says they are not receiving as much compensation as the other two branches.

VanMeter says judicial staff recruitment and retention hinges on the compensation they receive for their work.

Along with increased compensation, VanMeter also shared his desire to establish more mental health courts in the state that focus on offenders who may have underlying mental health conditions or substance abuse issues. VanMeter says the criminalization of these conditions has devastating effects on offenders and their families and wants to secure federal funds to establish 10 mental health courts across the state.

Concerning court facilities, VanMeter says 37 courthouses across the state that haven’t had any construction updates authorized by the General Assembly since 1996 and were evaluated by an independent contractor. VanMeter says some of those evaluated require major repairs that are not covered by court maintenance allocations.

Regarding the matter, VanMeter says allocations addressing would HVAC issues, accessibility and electrical issues would be instrumental in preserving courthouses across the state.

Along with judicial facility repairs, VanMeter highlighted an attorney shortage occurring in rural communities which he says the Kentucky Bar Association is looking into.

VanMeter discusses these matters with the committee ahead of the General Assembly reconvening to ensure matters in the judicial branch are taken into account as legislators work toward establishing a budget next year.