Cash-strapped courts in Kentucky will close temporarily when 3,300 court workers are furloughed without pay for three days between August and October. It will be the first closing of Kentucky courts since an overhaul in 1976, more than a quarter century ago.
Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton Jr. said the temporary shutdown is intended to cope with what he described as “deep cuts” in the judiciary’s budget, according to a Reuters article.
Legislators reduced by more than $25 million the judicial branch’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
“In the modern history of the commonwealth, I do not know of a time where the service to the public has been interrupted because there’s not enough money to keep the courts open,” Justice Minton told reporters in his office, according to a Frankfort (Ky.) State Journal article.
The public will be affected by more than just “closed” signs on courthouses. The Judicial Branch will impose a hiring freeze, reduce and cap participants in local Drug Courts, cut back 100-hour part-time employees to 80 hours and reduce their benefits.
With its action, Kentucky will join other states that have closed courtrooms, reduced personnel or imposed other cuts on court services in order to balance budgets harmed by the recession.
Earlier this week, legal and civic leaders devoted attention on National Law Day to what many have called the crisis caused nationwide by state court funding cuts (see Gavel Grab).