Speaker Richards: Chief Justice Minton Wins Big in Meeting with Legislators

June 26, 2008

In a LawReader  interview,  Speaker Jody Richards reported that John Minton, Jr.  who will become Chief Justice on Friday, did himself and the courts a lot of good in meetings with legislators this week.  The Speaker said, “… a crisis has been avoided”. 

He said that Minton impressed the legislators and created a good deal of good will.

The Herald-Leader reports that the new chief justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court will comply with a legislative budget mandate to spend $13.7 million the next two years on pay raises for deputy court clerks.
John D. Minton Jr told a legislative panel Thursday that he plans to review the $562 million judicial budget for potential money to provide pay raises for other non-elected court employees.
That would cost $11.1 million.
“The unfortunate — and I trust unintended — consequence of the salary improvement targeted solely for deputy clerks is that it leaves out in the cold 1,700 other non-elected Court of Justice employees in courthouses all across the Commonwealth,” Minton told lawmakers.
The creation of separate pay scales for similar workers will cause “internal damage to the collegial nature of our work” on a “seismic” scale, he said.
Minton’s move pleased House budget committee chairman Harry Moberly Jr., D-Richmond, who said a possible constitutional confrontation has been avoided.
Moberly and several other members of the committee were cordial to Minton but had harsh words for outgoing Chief Justice Joseph E. Lambert and for Jason Nemes, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, who they said ignored their budget mandates.
Lambert and Nemes were not at the committee meeting.
Told that Nemes was with his family at Disney World in Florida, Moberly said, “When he gets back, we hope he’s not in Disney World around here.”
Earlier this year, the Court of Justice ignored the recently passed state budget and provided “pay equity” raises for the judicial branch’s non-elected employees making less than $60,000 a year. That amounted to a flat $500 increase at a cost of $6.5 million over the next two years. Also, the courts allocated an additional $8.4 million for pay raises in fiscal year 2010.
They said it could strain relations between the legislative and judicial branches and have a negative effect on future budget requests from the judicial branch.

Under the budget approved by the legislature, which Minton will follow, deputy clerks with annual pay below $53,604 will get a 7 percent increase. Those paid less than $21,924 will get a 22.83 percent hike.
In his inaugural testimony Thursday before the House budget committee, Minton said he would “address first the elephant in the room” — raises for deputy clerks.
Minton said he wanted “to make clear my commitment to return to the day of wholesome cooperation.” with the legislature.
Minton said he will meet Monday in Bowling Green with leadership of the circuit court clerks to help him come up with the best way to implement the salary increase for deputy clerks.
He said complex issues abound, including balancing the needs of circuit clerks in rural areas, who typically are concerned about higher salaries to retain employees, with those in urban areas, who need better salaries to help recruit employees.
Concerning legislators’ disdain for Nemes, Minton said he would not fire him.
“I don’t know how I could have made this transition without Jason Nemes’ help,” Minton said. “We would be at a great loss without him.”
Earlier this year, the state Senate declined to confirm Nemes’ appointment as director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. However, Lambert simply reappointed him to the position.

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