The state’s budget crunch means the Grayson County Judicial Center will be shuttered on Monday, Aug. 6.
All courthouses in the state will be closed that day, the first of three “furlough” days this year to save money under the Judicial Branch’s budget reduction plan.
Grayson County Circuit Court Clerk Elois Downs said the entire building will be closed due to the furlough, which is impacting all court services, the State Law Library and driver’s license branches.
The Judicial Center will also be closed Sept. 4 and Oct. 15.
All non-elected court personnel will be off work without pay. Downs said that will impact her 11 deputy clerks plus judicial secretaries, bailiffs, and other court-services employees.
“The deputies (clerks) don’t make that much money anyway,” she said, “so for some this will really be a hardship.”
The Sept. 4 furlough will also have an impact on the county’s court case loads, she said.
Tuesdays are normally “motion” days locally for both circuit and district court, which judges hearing and sometimes ruling on legal arguments. Downs said it’s common for 100 to 200 cases to be on the docket on those days.
“You can imagine the backlog (the furlough) will create,” she said.
Besides shifting trials and other court proceedings to other days, the furlough days will cause court workers to be unable to process bonds and release orders — meaning people will have to stay in jail longer — and the state Supreme Court rule requiring pretrial officers to interview a defendant within 12 hours of incarceration will be suspended.
Also, driver’s licenses will not be issued on furlough days. Downs said with the offices closed, no driving tests will be conducted Sept. 4.
John Minton Jr., the chief justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court, said the furloughs will mark the first time in modern history that all courthouses statewide are being closed to balance the Judicial Branch budget.
“The 4.3 million people in Kentucky generate nearly 1.1 million court cases each year,” Minton said. “To meet that demand, the Judicial Branch needs only about 3 percent of the state budget. Yet since 2008 our court system has experienced a cumulative budget reduction of 48 percent.
“We began addressing our funding crisis four years ago by downsizing our staff by 282 employees, leaving judicial vacancies unfilled, eliminating valuable programs such as Juvenile and Family Drug Courts, implementing broad operating costs and streamlining the organizational structure of the Administrative Office of the Courts, the operations arm of the court system,” Minton said. “Four years of implementing cuts is hollowing out our court system. … The toll of underfunded courts is more than three days of customer inconvenience. Growing caseloads and declining budgets diminish the ability of the courts to swiftly and efficiently mete out justice.”