Justice Minton Speaks on Mediation – Oct. 2013

CHIEF JUSTICE MINTON GIVES STATE OF THE JUDICIARY ADDRESS…

Fall 2013 State of the Judiciary Address:
The Changing Face of Kentucky Courts
Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr.
Testimony before the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary Friday, October 4, 2013, 10 a.m. CDT Christian County Justice Center
Hopkinsville, Kentucky

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STATE OF THE JUDICIARY
The last time we discussed the state of the judiciary was in January of this year at the Capitol Annex. While it has only been nine months since we last met, 2013 has been a seminal year in terms of breakthroughs in court technology in Kentucky.
Supreme Court of Kentucky
Chambers, State Capitol
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601 502-564-4162
www.courts.ky.gov
John D. Minton, Jr.
Chief Justice of Kentucky

I’m excited about the progress we’re making with technology and I’ll give you some specifics on that later. But first, I want to talk about something that has been on my mind and is affecting how I do my job – and that is the changing face of the court system in Kentucky.
Several factors are having a profound effect on how we carry out the business of the courts. Changing demographics, the budget crisis and constant leaps in technology are forever altering how courtrooms operate. All of these dynamics are placing new, complex demands on judges, circuit court clerks and court personnel.
Years ago, when I was sitting on the Circuit Court bench, the process was pretty predictable and straightforward. Attorneys represented their clients, cases went to trial and judges presided over the proceedings.
It’s not that simple anymore.
Mediation on the Rise

The court model we’re familiar with is evolving in a number of ways. For one thing, today’s cases might not even make it to court. And if they make it to court, they are not likely to be resolved by a jury trial.
Since 2005, we have seen a significant decline in jury trials, with the number of circuit and district criminal jury trials dropping by more than two-thirds. We’ve seen a similar drop in civil jury trials, which have declined by half. There are several reasons for this, including the rising cost of discovery, the expense and time involved with going to trial, and the unpredictability of jury verdicts.
Mediation mitigates some of these concerns by giving parties an opportunity to save time and money. While it is historically true that most cases settle, we are finding that more parties are using formal mediation to resolve their disputes.

Since the AOC created a mediation program nearly a decade ago, we’ve seen an increase in parties using mediators to resolve their conflicts. Whether this is a positive trend for our justice system is very much up for debate, but there is no question that mediation relieves some of the strain on court dockets.
Because many attorneys get their cases mediated before being ordered to by a judge, there’s really no way to track the number of cases being mediated. However, it appears that a significant amount of civil cases statewide are being mediated or otherwise settled out of court.
Felony cases are being mediated as well. The Felony Mediation Program has grown steadily since it started in 2008.

In just five years, more than 1,300 felony cases have been mediated and 1,100 have settled, for an 81 percent settlement rate.

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