CHIEF JUSTICE REPORTS ON DEMISE OF SENIOR STATUS JUDGE PROGRAM…AND RESULTING PROBLEMS….

From: Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr.
Sent: Wednesday, December 05, 2012 3:13 PM
To: All Justices and Judges; All Senior Status Judges
Cc: All Circuit Clerks; Dudgeon, Laurie; Broaddus, Lisa; Reynolds, Deborah; Shepherd, Katie; Stevens, Kathy
Subject: Senior Status Program of Special Judges

Dear Judges:

As most of you know, entry into the Senior Status Program for Special Judges sunsetted by operation of law on January 31, 2009. At that time, we experienced a large influx of senior judges into the program, many of whom have finished or will soon finish their service. By the end of 2012, only about 20 judges will remain in the program. And I anticipate that half of them will complete their service in the first few months of 2013. Because the senior status guidelines require judges to complete their service within five years, the senior status program will effectively end by January 31, 2014.

Chief Senior Status Judge Lambert completed his service at the end of October. Since that time, the senior status program has been running out of my office with the help of the senior judge administrator, Debbie Reynolds. Debbie will retire at the end of January, and my administrative assistant, Kathy Stevens, will take over the task of administering the program.

Our system has become accustomed to a cohort of experienced senior judges available on fairly short notice to cover dockets when the regular judge needed to be away. But the dwindling number of available senior judges will make it increasingly difficult to cover dockets. So senior judges will only be assigned only for the exigencies enumerated in the original Guidelines for Senior Status Program for Special Judges, specifically:

1. Vacancies resulting from death, retirement, or resignation;

2. Illness or injury requiring a judge to be unavailable for an extended period of time;

3. Situations in which there is a danger of dismissing a criminal case due to calendar congestion or other workload issues;

4. Extraordinary circumstances leading to unusually congested dockets or heavy workloads;

5. Coverage for judges attending judicial education and training;

6. Any circumstance satisfying the Chief Justice or Chief Senior Status Judge that the certifying court needs the assistance of a Special Judge.

If you are in need of a senior judge, you must specify the reason for the request on Form AOC-SJ-5 or AOC-SJ-6. Any form that is submitted without a valid reason will be denied.

The end of the senior status program also means that we will soon revert to a system of requiring sitting judges to cover dockets for other judges in each region, a program coordinated by our chief regional judges. We are in the process of updating the Regional Administration Program Charter to ensure this process operates as smoothly as possible. If you have any questions regarding the Charter, please contact your chief regional judge or my office.

As always, I appreciate everything you do for the court system.

John D. Minton, Jr.

Chief Justice of Kentucky

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