A former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice and the president of the Floyd County Bar Association filed a lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court on Oct. 8, asking that the state be permanently barred from eliminating a circuit judge seat in Floyd County.
According to the lawsuit, filed by former Supreme Court Justice Janet Stumbo and Floyd County Bar President Brandis Bradley, due to a bill passed in the legislature in 2018, one circuit division in Floyd County will be eliminated, effective Jan. 2, 2023.
This action, Stumbo and Bradley claim, was done unconstitutionally and was legislation which “improperly targeted” Floyd County’s Judicial District, the 31st. The lawsuit names as defendants Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne, Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers and Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams.
Judicial redistricting is under the power of the General Assembly, and, the lawsuit said, in 2017, the Supreme Court of Kentucky issued a certificate of necessity which called for a significant realigning of judicial districts throughout the state.
However, the lawsuit said, that plan did not pass out of committee and differed from the plan instituted in 2018 in that, while the 2017 plan was focused statewide, the 2018 bill was narrowly focused on Floyd County. Also, Stumbo and Bradley argue in the lawsuit, the decision on the bill was made without an existing “certification” as required by the Kentucky Constitution.
“The clear intent of the framers of our constitution was to give notice to all impacted by judicial redistricting of a proposed certification coming from the commonwealth’s highest court,” the lawsuit said. “At that point, a flashing red light would go off, and those impacted would have the opportunity to approach the General Assembly, who had the right to approve or decline to approve the Supreme Court certification.”
Stivers, Osborne and the General Assembly in 2018, however, committed “unilateral and arbitrary actions,” which violated the constitutional provisions.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs seek both a temporary and permanent injunction preventing the elimination of the seat until or unless all constitutional procedures are followed.