Earlier I wrote about the threat to us all which would come with cuts to the budget for our Judiciary. Right now, there is a perfect example of what happens to us when Courts are not accessible.
At the end of a long term, Judge Stephen George took a well-deserved retirement from Jefferson Circuit Court, Family Division Nine, here in Louisville. He presided over one tenth of the divorce, custody, domestic violence, dependency abuse and neglect, paternity, child support, adoption and other Family Court matters in Louisville.
Judge George retired with enough time for people to file for the vacancy. The political process will take place with a primary winnowing the field down to two (2) candidates at the primary election and the general election selecting the next Judge in Jefferson Circuit Court, Family Division Nine. The only problem is…our next Judge will not be elected until the first Tuesday in November and will not be sworn in until December.
In the meantime, a vacancy has been declared by the Administrative Office of the Courts. The Judicial Nominating Committee for the Thirtieth Judicial Circuit will receive names of people qualified to fill the vacancy. They will select three (3) candidates to send the Office of the Governor (the same Governor who does not believe that our Judiciary should be fully funded).
If this process does not play out by the primary election day, it becomes politically difficult for the Governor to nominate someone to fill the vacancy. In doing so, the Governor would be seen as meddling in a nonpartisan contested election already underway. I say difficult, but Gov. Bevin has no track record, so who knows?
In the meantime, two (2) months have already gone by with no regular Judge in the Division. Retired Judges and Sitting Judges (who already have full dockets) have tried to fill the vacancy, but the stress and harm is already showing. People need financial support for themselves and their family. They need help with custody and visitation issues. Through no fault of the Judges trying to pitch in, our citizens are being underserved. There is no substitute for a fully funded and functioning Judiciary.
Now imagine, if you will, this happening in all divisions of District, Circuit, and Appellate Courts. Not just in Louisville, but across Kentucky.
Some quick factoids…the Judicial Budget is the smallest of the three (3) branches. The Administrative Office of the Courts saved about a million dollars by buying the headquarters in Frankfort. Cutting this budget will cause far more harm than any potential good. Please pay attention and demand that your legislator do the same.