Kentucky Supreme Court

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For the first time, the public will have access to records held by the administrative arm of Kentucky’s courts system, though there are several exceptions to the new policy.

The state’s judicial branch had for years refused to adhere to the state’s open records law, saying that the legislature couldn’t write laws that govern them because of the separation of powers principle.

Administrative Office of the Courts

A circuit judge from Somerset wants to join Kentucky's highest court.  Judge David Tapp announced Thursday that he will campaign for the state Supreme Court in 2018. 

Judge Tapp has been a circuit court judge for the past 14 years, presiding over cases in Pulaski, Rockcastle, and Lincoln counties.

He served as a law enforcement officer, private attorney, and prosecutor before joining the bench. 

"I've focused on quite a few years on some of the issues facing my immediate community, but frankly those challenges exist throughout Kentucky," Tapp told WKU Public Radio.  "We have tremendous challenges involving substance abuse, under-employment, and a number of other issues which play out in the courts."

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Former Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John S. Palmore, who helped shape the state’s modern unified justice system, has died. He was 99.

Harrod Brothers Funeral Home owner Will Harrod said Palmore died Tuesday morning.

Media reported that Palmore chaired a commission that drafted Kentucky’s criminal code, authored more than 800 published opinions and wrote a manual on jury instructions that are still used in courtrooms today. In addition, he helped adopt and implement judicial reforms in the 1970s that brought about the state’s current judicial system.

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On a sunny spring afternoon, Grover Rawlins stands at the intersection of Maxwell and Limestone streets near the University of Kentucky campus, waving at cars and asking people for money.

“I don’t bother nobody or nothing, I just sit here on the curb,” Rawlins said. “They give me a dollar or two — I don’t get mad at them or nothing. I’m not out to hurt nobody, I just have to make a dollar.”

The intersection has become a hub for homeless people since February when the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that Lexington’s ban on panhandling was unconstitutional.

The Kentucky Supreme Court plans to convene next week to hear oral arguments in six cases including one about free speech.

A statement from the high court says justices will hear a case out of Fayette County asking them to decide whether an ordinance that bans begging and soliciting on public streets is a violation of free speech.

Justices will also hear cases out of Hardin, Jefferson, McCracken and Rockcastle counties that deal with a variety of issues including questions about medical malpractice and imminent domain.

The Supreme Court proceedings will take place on Oct. 13-14 at the state Capitol building in Frankfort and are open to the public.

Kentucky Office of the Courts

The Kentucky Supreme Court will decide whether Republican Gov. Matt Bevin can cut the budgets of state colleges and universities.

The court has agreed to hear the case, bypassing the state Court of Appeals, and set a hearing date for Aug. 18.

Bevin reduced allotments to state colleges and universities by nearly $18 million without the approval of the state legislature. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear sued him, saying Bevin overstepped his authority. A state judge sided with Bevin last month.

Beshear appealed that decision. Normally the case would first go to the state Court of Appeals. But Beshear asked the Supreme Court to hear the case and skip the appeals court process. Bevin opposed Beshear's request, saying the case was not of "great and immediate public importance."

The court granted Beshear's request Monday.

The Kentucky Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a lawsuit over whether Louisville can increase the minimum wage employers pay their workers.A Jefferson Circuit Court judge already ruled the city could raise the minimum wage, but a coalition of business organizations appealed the case to the state Supreme Court.

Tod Griffin, president of the Kentucky Retail Federation, said allowing local governments to raise the minimum wage would create a “patchwork” of different wage laws across the state.

“You may have to raise prices or reduce benefits or that type of thing,” Griffin said. “It leads to a competitiveness situation with your neighbors across the county or in a different city.”

In late 2014, the Louisville Metro Council passed an ordinance gradually raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour by July 2017. The minimum wage was raised to $7.75 an hour in 2015 and will be raised to $8.25 an hour July 1 of this year.

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The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that a gay woman may proceed with her efforts to obtain joint custody of a girl borne by her ex-partner when they were still together.

The court issued its ruling Thursday.

The woman, identified as Amy, had asked the court to block adoption proceedings by her ex-partner's husband. The girl's mother became pregnant with the help of a sperm donor. She gave birth in 2006 when she and Amy were still a couple.

The case is among several across the country involving wrenching personal questions about what it means to be a parent under today's ever-changing definition of family in the eyes of the law.

Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over Records Fight

Aug 14, 2014
ky.gov

The Kentucky Supreme Court has heard arguments in a records dispute between the Council on Developmental Disabilities and the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The advocacy group is asking to review the records of two disabled men who died in state care in 2009 shortly after being moved to new homes.

The Courier-Journal reports justices heard arguments on Wednesday in the case.

David Tachau, a Louisville attorney who represents the Council on Developmental Disabilities, argued the agency should have to release the records under the state's Open Records Act.

Cabinet attorney D. Brent Irvin argued that a different state law calls for records in such cases to be released only to government agencies with a legitimate interest in the case.

Lower courts have sided with the cabinet.

ky.gov

Kentucky's top judge will ask for more funding to bring justice cabinet salaries in line with those of the legislative and executive branches.

Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton will present a budget overview and a request for additional money to lawmakers Monday in Frankfort.

Minton says roughly 800 of the judicial branch’s 3,300 non-elected employees make less than the federal poverty level for a family of four, with many more qualifying for food stamps. 

“That is a situation that really demands attention from, you know, our legislators. We’re going to ask that we be able to be funded at a level so that we can rectify that.”

Minton says the low salaries affect workers from clerks to warehouse workers, but declined to say how much money he would ask the committee for.

The 2014 budget for non-elected judicial branch salaries, excluding benefits, is $89 million.

The Kentucky Supreme Court is considering a case that could have a major impact on criminal investigations in the commonwealth.

Floyd Grover Johnson was sentenced to 10 years in prison on multiple drug trafficking charges in Powell County.

But in his appeal, Floyd successfully argued that because the investigation leading to his indictment was conducted solely by uninvited law enforcement agencies outside of Powell County—including detectives from the Kentucky Attorney General's Office and officers working for Operation UNITE, an anti-drug enforcement non-profit founded by U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers—then his 2009 indictment should be moot.

In oral arguments before the Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said that if Floyd's appeal is upheld, it could have severe implications for his office's ability to investigate a wide range of cases, from drug trafficking to child pornography.

"What is particularly concerning to the office of the Attorney General is to accept the ... argument would be to make the office of the Attorney General nothing more than a clerk for your local prosecutors, your local city council," Conway said. "I guess someone working at Walmart would have more investigative authority than the office of the Attorney General who’s given peace officer status.”

Former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Dies

Oct 28, 2013

Former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Wil Schroder has died. He was 67.

His cousin, Kenton County Judge-executive Steve Arlinghaus, told The Kentucky Enquirer that Schroder died away late Saturday night.

Schroder retired from the court in January after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Before being elected to an eight-year term on the Supreme Court in 2006, he served on the Court of Appeals for 15 years and as a trial judge on Kenton District Court for nearly eight years.

The Louisville Courier-Journal is citing other local judges and political insiders in reporting that Bowling Green attorney Greg Stivers is being considered to fill a vacant federal judgeship in Kentucky.

U.S. Attorney David J. Hale is reportedly also being considered.

The paper says two Warren Circuit Court judges and others have indicated they've been interviewed by the Justice Department as part of the vetting process of Stivers who is outside counsel for Western Kentucky University and a partner in the 14-lawyer Bowling Green firm of Kerrick, Stivers and Coyle. The firm is an underwriter for WKU Public Radio. Federal district judges are paid $174,000 a year and are appointed for life.

Stivers' name is expected to be put forth by Kentucky senator Rand Paul, a neighbor and close friend of Stivers. According to the Warren County Clerk's office, the 53 year old Stivers was a registered Democrat until November 2009 when he switched parties as Paul was mounting his Senate campaign. Paul's Bowling Green Senate office is in a building that also houses Stivers' law firm. Federal records show Stivers contributed $800 to Paul's campaign.

Kentucky Department of Corrections

The conviction and 50-year prison sentence of a Todd County teenager has been overturned after the Kentucky Supreme Court concluded his confession was coerced.

The high court on Thursday ordered a new trial for 19-year-old Garrett Thomas Dye. Dye was convicted in 2011 of beating his adopted sister, 9-year-old Amy Dye, to death.

Justice Will T. Scott concluded that police improperly told Dye, then 17, that if he didn't confess, a jury would convict him and hand down a death sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that anyone under 18 is ineligible for execution.

The case drew the attention of state lawmakers. Records were released showing that social workers either ignored or dismissed allegations of abuse and neglect against the child.

The newest justice on Kentucky's Supreme Court will formally be sworn in this week, giving the court a record three women on the bench at one time.

Justice Michelle Keller will take the oath Tuesday in the Capitol. The swearing in will take place at 11 a.m. and is open to the public.

Keller previously served on the state Court of Appeals, and Beshear appointed her to the 6th Supreme Court District in April.

There are seven justices on the Supreme Court. Never in state history have three of them been women.

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