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Kentucky Chief Justice Warns Against Bill Rerouting State Civil Cases

Josh James

A Republican bill that would send civil lawsuits against the state outside of Franklin County is earning negative reviews from the chief justice of Kentucky's highest court.

GOP leaders have long sought to sidestep Franklin Circuit Court, which hears lawsuits against state agencies and officials, arguing judges in the district wield too much influence over cases of affecting the entire commonwealth.

This year, the party is back with a priority House bill that would put civil cases before panels comprised of three judges hailing from three newly-created judicial districts. The districts would cover the entire state and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton would select the judges.

"This isn't the way that I would build it," Sen. Whitney Westerfield said. "But I do support moving things out of Franklin Circuit Court, so that frankly those two men, or women one day, can get around to hearing just the cases for people in the Franklin Circuit and these other cases of statewide import can be heard by lots of diffierent judges."

But Chief Justice Minton told lawmakers Friday the bill overcomplicates the process.

"This is the Rube Goldberg way to do it, and it is a dissservice to the taxpayers of the commonwealth for us to go down this path," Minton argued.

A similar measure failed to gain traction in the Senate in 2019.