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May 7, 2012

‘Draconian cuts’ affect Madison County courts


The American Bar Association’s theme for this year’s May 1 observance of National Law Day was “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom.”
This fall in Madison County and throughout the state there will be no courts for three days in which there would’ve normally been scheduled hearings, trials and motion hours. Circuit Clerks’ offices also will be closed.
This is the first time since Kentucky’s modern court system was formed in 1976 that furloughs have been imposed to balance the budget, according to a news release Wednesday from Kentucky State Supreme Court Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr.
“I personally think this is a poor way to treat employees,” Madison Circuit Court Judge William Clouse said Thursday after the furlough announcement. He believes the General Assembly did not consider the impact of the $25.2 million reduction in the judicial branch’s budget when passing the state’s biennium budget last month.
“Now we’re stuck with these draconian cuts,” Clouse said.
The state’s judicial branch will be shut down Monday, Aug. 6; the Tuesday following Labor Day, Sept. 4; and Monday, Oct. 15. This will affect 3,300 employees statewide, according to court spokesperson Leigh Ann Hiatt. 
The 404 elected justices, judges and circuit court clerks are not be affected by the furloughs as the state constitution prohibits any reduction in their salaries. 
“We knew there would be some sort of cut, but it’s unfortunate it falls on the hard-working employees of the court system,” Madison Circuit Court Judge Jean C. Logue said.
The courthouse closures already have caused problems for the judges. Logue said she will have to reschedule trials set for Oct. 15. In court Thursday, Clouse attempted to schedule a criminal  trial for Oct. 15 but realized the date fell on a furlough day. The judges prefer to schedule trials to start on Monday because of regularly scheduled motion hours later in the week.

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