Chief Justice: Ky. Court Workers Need Better Pay

Oct 4, 2013

Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton is pushing lawmakers to provide more pay equity for court system employees across the state.

Ky. Supreme Court Justice John D. Minton Jr.
Ky. Supreme Court Justice John D. Minton Jr.
Credit bgdailynews.com

Speaking to the Interim Joint Committee on the Judiciary in Hopkinsville on Friday and later to reporters on a conference call, Minton said the pay scale for the state judicial system is lagging behind other areas of the government. Minton said the push for better employee pay will be his primary focus when the court's budget request is submitted to lawmakers in November.

Minton said the first pay increases should go to the lower paid employees, some of whom make less than the federal poverty line - about $23,500 for a family of four. Non-elected, full-time employees of Kentucky's judicial system earn anywhere from $22,000 for a deputy clerk to $75,000 for a court administrator.

"We're going to have to address the lowest paid people first," Minton said. "It's got to begin with the people who are earning the least."

As chief justice, Minton has administrative oversight of the entire state court system and is responsible for delivering the budget request to lawmakers.

The push for higher pay for judicial employees marks the second time in the last three years Minton has pressed the issue with lawmakers. During the 2011 State of the Judiciary address, Minton said salaries of judicial branch employees need to be brought in line with their higher-paid peers in the executive and legislative branches to cut down on turnover. His proposal was for $11.9 million in the next fiscal year to boost wages.

At the start of 2013, Kentucky had a projected $6 million to $7 million operating deficit.

"I realize funding has been tight," Minton said. "But, it's come time that I have to make it known that the funding priority needs to be the people in the judicial branch."

While pay raises are a priority, making sure the proper amount of staff is on hand in each courthouse is also key, Minton said. Staffing numbers across the state are generally down from a decade ago, Minton said, but advances in technology are helping the employees to do the work as quickly.

"I think we ought to be able to do more work with fewer people," Minton said. "The jobs people will be doing will be different jobs and will require fewer people to do it."