Commonwealth Counsel Group

Kentucky Legislature Grants Chief Justice Authority to Extend Statutory Deadlines

This past Wednesday, April 1, 2020, the Kentucky General Assembly passed the Judicial Branch Budget, which grants the Chief Justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court the authority to declare a Judicial Emergency during the State of Emergency that we are currently under related to the novel coronavirus pursuant to a declaration from the Governor of Kentucky.  This authority enables the Chief Justice to extend statutes of limitations, administrative actions deadlines, and other statutory deadlines related to judicial proceedings.

Note, the Kentucky legislature merely granted this authority to the Chief Justice and did not extend these deadlines itself.  Therefore, if signed into law, the Chief Justice would be required to formally declare a Judicial Emergency for any deadline to be extended.  If the Chief Justice does extend any or all deadlines, he could extend them until 30 days after the emergency declaration ends.  And if he does so, it would appear that it would save any filing that was due before or after the emergency declaration so long as the filing was due during the State of Emergency.

The provision applies to all deadlines for court filings and proceedings, but it lists numerous statutes: 446.030 (Computation of time); 500.050 (Time limitations related to crimes); Chapter 342 (Workers’ Compensation); Chapter 376 (Statutory Liens); Chapter 403 (Dissolution of Marriage – Child Custody); Chapter 413 (Limitations of Actions); Chapter 456 (Civil Orders of Protection); and Chapter 620 (Dependency, Neglect, and Abuse).

Interestingly, this provision was included in the budget after a law school student at the University of Kentucky School of Law (Michael Rothacker) contacted Rep. Jason Nemes, who is the chairman over the budget subcommittee that writes the Judicial Branch Budget, suggesting the proposed provision be enacted. Rep. Nemes contacted the Chief Justice’s office, where the language was drafted and modeled after other states which have implemented statutes governing authority of the courts when a state of emergency had been declared in those states.  The Judicial Branch Budget is now on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature.

Here is a link to the Judicial Branch Budget:

Here is the provision granted the Chief Justice the authority.

18. Public Health Emergency: For the duration of the Governor’s declaration of a State of Emergency in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Chief Justice of the Commonwealth is authorized to declare a Judicial Emergency to protect the health and safety of court employees, elected officials, and the general public. A Judicial Emergency shall extend any administrative actions deadlines, and statutory timelines and statutes of limitations for court filings and proceedings, including but not limited to KRS 446.030, 500.050, and Chapters 342, 376, 403, 413, 456, and 620. The extensions provided herein shall be effective until 30 days after the emergency order of the Chief Justice or the Governor ends, whichever is later. This provision shall apply both prospectively and retroactively.