Kentucky becomes fourth state this session to consider letting state chief justice or supreme court redistrict state’s courts and reallocate judgeships

I mentioned earlier in February that 3 states (Kansas, Missouri, and to a limited extend Wyoming) are considering allowing their supreme court and/or chief justice reallocate judgeships and even redraw judicial circuit/district lines based on workload assessments and without legislative involvement. I also noted that Iowa had effectively done both in the last several years. Now Kentucky is considering a similar effort to give control of the judicial redistricting and resource allocation process to the judiciary.

Kentucky HB 391 would amend the state’s constitution to include two new elements.

  1. The Chief Justice, not the legislature, would redistrict the state’s District and Circuit judicial lines every 10 years based on the census AND in reflection not just of population but “to reflect workload.” The language echoes a 2003 law adopted in Iowa (HB 573, now Iowa Code 602.6107) that requires the supreme court redistrict every 10 years, starting in 2012, based on “the most efficient and effective administration of the district court and the judicial branch.”
  2. The Chief Justice, not the legislature, would reallocate judgeships, similar to the scheme enacted in 2011 in Iowa (SB326 now Iowa CodeĀ  602.6113). Under the existing Kentucky constitutional provisions the number of judges in each judicial district or circuit are determined by the General Assembly upon a certification of necessity by the Supreme Court.

Kentucky HB 391 is currently before the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee.