Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

April 17, 2013

Regional jail agreement upheld by Frankfort judge

By Leeann Akers - Editor
Journal-Times

April 17, 2013 — In a judgment filed Monday in Franklin Circuit Court in Frankfort, the agreement between Carter and Boyd counties to establish the Northeast Regional Jail Authority (NRJA) was upheld by Judge Phillip Shepherd.

His ruling said the agreement between the two counties is a valid exercise. A summary judgment was granted and claims by the two county jailers and the Kentucky Jailers Association (KJA) were dismissed.

The two counties entered into the interlocal cooperation agreement in May 2012. The action unleashed a public outcry and eventually the civil suit filed by the Boyd and Carter jailers and the KJA.

Shepherd’s decision answered two main questions: Is the creation of the NRJA unconstitutional? Can the NRJA operate two jails in two different counties?

Jim Deckard, the attorney representing the KJA which opposed the agreement between Boyd and Carter counties, told Judge Shepherd during oral arguments in December that the agreement is “the first instance of a regional jail authority seeking to operate two jails in two counties.”

Shepherd said in his ruling that nothing in statutory law or the state constitution prohibits the establishment of multiple jails in multiple counties under an interlocal agreement.

Scott White, attorney for the two counties, told Shepherd there wasn’t an issue for the court to decide because the interlocal agreement presumes nothing other than the two counties wish to secure state approval to pursue the concept of a regional jail – and until it determines how to do that, to continue operating its two county jails.

Deckard argued that the agreement stripped the elected jailers of their authority but Shepherd found that the agreement was constitutional because “nothing in the Constitution or any enabling statute requires the county jailer to supervise, manage or be in any way involved in running the county jail.”

After the ruling was filed, Deckard said, “We are reviewing today’s ruling and will make a decision regarding an appeal in the coming days.”

White was unavailable for comment at press time.

The case could be taken to the Kentucky Court of Appeals and then to the Kentucky Supreme Court. To be valid, an appeal must be filed within 30 days.

According to the interlocal agreement, the NRJA will begin operation when “the governing board is duly appointed by the county judges/ executives, a budget is prepared and approved by both fiscal courts and an agreement is reached between the Regional Jail Authority and the respective counties on the use of the respective jails of each county.”

Due to our press deadline, the Journal-Times did not have time to contact local officials for comment on the judge’s ruling.

It was learned that judge-executives of the two counties likely would issue a news release Wednesday on the court ruling.

Leeann Akers can be reached at lakers@journal-times.com or by phone at 474-5101.