FRANKFORT, Ky., Oct. 14, 2004 - The Kentucky Court of Appeals is gaining additional assistance to support faster, more efficient decision-making, Chief Justice Joseph E. Lambert announced today. The assistance will come from three recently retired former Court of Appeals judges who will sit with the regular judges of the court to form a fifth judicial panel.
The three judges are Judge Thomas D. Emberton of Edmonton, Judge Joseph R. Huddleston of Bowling Green and Judge John D. Miller of Owensboro. All three recently retired from the Court of Appeals and are current participants in the Senior Status Program for Special Judges.
"These judges are well experienced and respected across the state and will only add to the fine work of our Court of Appeals," said Chief Justice Lambert. "By using experienced judges in the Senior Status Program, we can improve the timely resolution of appellate cases with little or no additional cost to Kentucky taxpayers."
Kentucky Court of Appeals
The Kentucky Court of Appeals is comprised of 14 judges, two elected from each of seven appellate districts. Court of Appeals judges are divided into panels of three to review and decide cases, with the majority deciding the outcomes. The panels do not sit permanently in one location, but move about the state to hear appeals. Each of the 14 judges currently writes 10 or more decisions per month and participates in decision-making panels for another 20 or more cases. The addition of three senior status judges will allow for a fifth panel of three judges to assist with the court’s heavy docket.
"It is apparent that Chief Justice Lambert is well in tune with the legislative intent of the Senior Status Program,” said Sen. Robert Stivers of Manchester, chair of the Kentucky Senate Committee on the Judiciary who represents the 25th Senatorial District. “This program allows the Chief Justice to assist the courts at all levels - trial and appellate - to expedite legal matters before them.”
When contacted about the announcement, Rep. Gross Lindsay of Henderson, chair of the Kentucky House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, said, "We passed the Senior Status Program in the 2000 session as an alternative to the increasing requests for new judgeships from around the state. Allowing retired judges to also serve at the appellate level saves taxpayer money and enables cases to be decided more quickly.”
Senior Status Program for Special Judges
The Senior Status Program for Special Judges resulted from legislation adopted by the 2000 General Assembly. Senior status judges are often appointed to handle a single case or multiple cases when a sitting judge is unable to preside for a variety of reasons such as illness, judicial education or recusal. Senior judges may also be assigned by the chief justice to assist in addressing caseloads in courts that experience heavy court activity. The assignment is temporary but can extend for several weeks or months depending upon the circumstances.
Judges whose age and years of service equal or exceed 75 may elect senior status upon retirement. As such, they are available to accept temporary, short-term assignments. The Senior Status Program for Special Judges allows experienced judges to continue contributing to Kentucky courts. These judges are often available on short notice to travel wherever needed throughout the Commonwealth.
Judges serving in the Senior Status Program for Special Judges must agree to serve 120 days a year for five years or 180 days a year for three and a half years. Senior status judges do not receive a salary, only an enhanced retirement benefit.