PROPOSED SENIOR STATUS AMENDMENT HAS TROUBLESOME PROVISIONS AFFECTING JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE. STENGEL VENDETTA GIVEN TOO MUCH WEIGHT.

The Ky. Post published an article Feb. 17, 2007 which describes some provisions of a bill introduced by Rep. Arnold Simpson.  We believe that some of these provisions are not well thought out and should not be adopted without some careful thought of the potential effect they may have on the independence of the Judiciary.
The Post article said:Rep. Simpson’s bill:


… limits eligibility to judges who have 20 years actual judicial experience – currently, judges can “buy time,” or get credit for other governmental experience, such as being a prosecutor.?

All other state employees (including legislators and Commonwealth Attorneys) are allowed to purchase or convert years of service in the military, legislative service, or state employment to the Judicial Retirement System in order to make up a total of 20 years of eligibility for the Senior Status Judges program. Why should judges be singled out for exclusion from this widely accepted state practice? 
“It also says a judge who has lost an election is not eligible,..?

 The exclusion of a Judge who lost an election is the most troublesome provision in the Simpson bill.   We can think of one obvious example that shows the lack of reason in such a restrictive provision.   Circuit Judge Ann Shake ran last year for the Ky. Supreme Court.  She has many years of outstanding service as a Circuit Judge.  Under the Simpson bill, she would apparently be ineligible for the Senior Status Judges program because she attempted to run for the Supreme Court and lost.  This loss in no way reflects on her ability to serve as a judge, it only reflects on the publics decision that they wanted Judge McAnulty instead of Ann Shake. 
If this provision was adopted, then few judges would risk enhancement of their retirement benefits by seeking higher office.  We ask where would our Appellate Judges come from?  The answer is that prior service as a trial judge, which should be a prerequisite for being an appellate judge, will now be a detriment.  The public may replace a good judge, with a better judge.  This does not mean that the replaced judge is not fully qualified to serve as a useful and productive Senior Status Judge.  Losing an election is a poor standard to measure a judges career.
If this concept makes any sense, why don’t we adopt legislation that any legislator who has ever lost an election is ineligible for state retirement benefits?

Commonwealth Attorney Dave Stengel is noted for his hot temper.  Just because he has a problem with Judge Fitzgerald doesn’t mean the entire judiciary should be punished.  Stengel’s vendetta against Judge Fitzgerald should be given the proper weight it deserves, and that in our opinion is “not much?! We hope the legislature will slow down just a bit and consider the long term effect some of these provisions may have on judicial independence.  We suggest that the legislature give the judiciary an opportunity to study this issue and come up with recommendations to be considered during the 2008 session of the General Assembly.  We have a Chief Justice who should be consulted on this issue.  The courts are not just another state commission or board, they represent an equal branch of government, and the judiciary should be heard on this issue.The current LRC listing of the Simpson bill does not contain the wording of these proposed amendments, and we therefore have relied on the Post article regarding the provision of the Simpson bill.
 
 

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