[1996/oagheade.htm]

OAG 96-18

April 3, 1996

Subject: Providing space for the courts.

Written By: Thomas R. Emerson, Assistant Attorney General

Requested By: Cicely Jaracz Lambert, Esq., Administrative Office of the Courts; Kent Clark, Madison County Judge/Executive; Brad Meyer, Haworth, Meyer & Boleyn, Inc.

Syllabus: “First priority” should be given to the fiscal court's proposal because the county has the first level of responsibility for furnishing space to the court system in the county courthouse facilities. A courthouse annex would be part of the county courthouse facilities.

OAGs Cited: OAG 78-116, OAG 84-159, OAG 84-263

Statutes Construed: KRS 26A.100

OPINION OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

Questions have been presented concerning the interpretation and application of KRS 26A.100.

A particular county courthouse does not have enough available space to house the growing court system. The county proposed building an annex to the existing courthouse while the city proposed renovating an existing facility in the city.

The specific questions to this office are as follows:

1. Does the language in KRS 26A.100 require the [Court of Justice Facilities and Standards] Committee to give first priority to the county proposal?

2. Does the language in KRS 26A.100 require the Committee to give first priority to the proposal that anticipates using available space (the county would be building a new structure; the city would be renovating available space)?

KRS 26A.100(1) provides:

The Circuit and the District court shall be held in the county courthouse of each county unless otherwise ordered by the Supreme Court in which case it may be held at any other location made available by the county and owned, leased, or controlled by the county. Circuit or District Court may also be held in such other locations in the county as may be convenient and approved by the Supreme Court.

KRS 26A.100(2) states in part that every county or urban-county government shall provide such reasonably available space which would not disrupt the operation of county government as necessary in the county courthouse, or in other county facilities.

KRS 26A.100(3) provides in part:

If all necessary facilities for the holding of Circuit or District Court, for the clerk's operations, or for the operation of the court or its ancillary functions, are not available in county facilities, every city shall, upon request of the Administrative Office of the Courts, provide such reasonably available space which would not disrupt the operation of city government as necessary in the city's facilities for the operations of Circuit or District Court, or both.

KRS 26A.107(2) states that, “No use allowance shall be paid respecting any capital costs contracted for any court facility after July 1, 1978, unless the construction or renovation receives prior concurrence by the Court Facilities Standards Committee.”

In OAG 78-116, copy enclosed, at page three, this office said in part:

The housing of the new court system was to be given a high priority, subject, however, to the principle that necessary county governmental operations would not be disrupted. The provision that the county shall provide such “reasonably available space” to the court system indicated, we think, that the initial determination of whether reasonably available space exists in a particular county is addressed, not to the judicial courts, but to the fiscal courts. Further, we are of the opinion that the fiscal court's decision in this matter is final, except where the courts determine in an appropriate suit that the fiscal court acted arbitrarily in determining that the space was not reasonably available for the courts.

In OAG 84-159, copy enclosed, we said in part that under the various levels of responsibility for furnishing space to the court system, the first or immediate level of such responsibility rests with the county government, followed by city available property, and available property of agencies of state government, special districts, etc., and private facilities, in that descending order. Unless the Kentucky Supreme Court has ordered or approved otherwise, the county government is required to furnish reasonable available space, as necessary, in the county courthouse, for the court system. The above-mentioned opinion suggested that the fiscal court work closely with the Administrative Office of the Courts in applying the formula of responsibility previously discussed. This office further stated in OAG 84-159 that if the county and the Administrative Office of the Courts fail to resolve any differences which may arise, only the courts in appropriate litigation can dispose of the matter. It was also noted that this legislation must be given a practical and equitable construction to be workable.

Finally, in OAG 84-263, copy enclosed, at page four, this office said in part as follows:

When reading KRS 26A.100 as a whole, it seems to us that the initial determination of whether reasonably available space exists in a county is addressed to the fiscal court. Such decision would be final, except where the courts determine in an appropriate suit that the fiscal court acted arbitrarily in determining that the space in question was not reasonably available for the courts. See Henry v. Commonwealth, 312 Ky. 491, 228 S.W.2d 32 (1950) 33, observing that in the courts' construction of a statute the whole of it and the purpose of all of it are to be considered.

After considering KRS 26A.100 in its entirety, and reviewing the prior opinions of this office, it appears that the first or immediate level of responsibility for furnishing space to the court system rests with the county government. The initial determination of whether “reasonably available space” exists in a particular county facility is addressed to the appropriate fiscal court. Unless the Kentucky Supreme Court has ordered otherwise the county government is required to furnish reasonably available space in the county courthouse facilities. The fiscal court should work closely with the Administrative Office of the Courts in applying the statutory formula of responsibility.

Ultimately the Supreme Court of Kentucky has the final say relative to where the Circuit and the District Courts shall be held in any particular county. KRS 26A.100, pertaining to the involvement of various entities, local, state, and private, in the providing of space to the court system, has set forth a list of entities responsible for such services and county government is first on that list. Thus, if the Supreme Court of Kentucky has not intervened concerning the holding of court in any particular county, “first priority” should be given to the fiscal court's proposal because the county has the first level of responsibility for furnishing space to the court system in the county courthouse facilities. A courthouse annex would be part of the county courthouse facilities.

A.B. CHANDLER III

ATTORNEY GENERAL

THOMAS R. EMERSON

ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL