FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 5, 2018) — A bill that would create three new family court judgeships in Kentucky was approved Monday by the House Judiciary Committee.
House Bill 348, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, and Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, would add family court judges to both the judicial circuit serving Pulaski, Lincoln and Rockcastle counties and the judicial circuit serving Boone and Gallatin counties.
“Those two (circuits) in particular have a tremendous need. There’s a lot of places in Kentucky where judges are working extremely hard but in those two places—I don’t see how they’re even getting the job done, they’re so overworked,” said Nemes.
The third family court judgeship would be created in Bullitt County where a district judgeship would be converted to a family court judgeship to accommodate the change, said Nemes.
A circuit judgeship in Floyd County and a district judgeship in far West Kentucky would be eliminated by HB 348 as of 2023 to pay for the family court judgeships created by the bill, said Nemes. The change in far West Kentucky would be handled by combining two district judgeships – one in Fulton and Hickman counties and one in Carlisle and Ballard counties – into one district judgeship.
“This circuit is already combined, and so we’re combining the district judges there and taking one judge away from what will be the combined district,” Nemes said of the proposed change in West Kentucky. “That is, according to the numbers, the lowest caseload of any district judge in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”
A light caseload was also the reason for targeting Floyd County Circuit Court for elimination of a judgeship, according to Nemes. But Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg, disagreed with the proposed change. She ended up voting against the bill in committee.
Although Floyd County isn’t in her district, Hatton said she thinks HB 348 “disproportionately affects my mountain community and especially that district, where they already share judges who travel far distances.”
Additionally, HB 348 would allow the Kentucky Supreme Court to direct a review every eight years of Kentucky’s judicial circuits and districts to determine if there is any need to rearrange them. Nemes said the review would “tell us what the caseload looks like, whether there needs to be, or should be, some changes within the circuits and districts.”
HB 348 now goes to the full House for its consideration.