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Are Kentucky Court Records Public?

The Kentucky Open Records Act guarantees the right of access to records maintained by Government bodies in the state. It was introduced in 1976 and amended in 1994. It should be noted that records like Juvenile record, Medical Records and confidential Records are not available for public access without authorisation.  Court records are regarded as public records, and public members can request access to them. Although court records are public, records made confidential by the state statute or ordered to be sealed by a judge are not easily accessible except for the parties and authorised representatives.

How Do I Find Court Records in Kentucky? 

The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in Kentucky is to visit the court house where the case was heard. The Kentucky Courts of Justice comprises the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Circuit and District Courts. The address of each court can be found on the Kentucky Court of Justice Website. For example, to request court records from the Supreme Court, interested persons may visit the office of the Clerk of Supreme Court.

Usually, the Court Clerk responds to court record requests and directs requesters on what forms to fill.

These are the names and addresses of the Clerks of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals:

Kelly Stephen 
Clerk of Supreme Court of Kentucky
State Capitol, Room 235
700 Capital Ave.
Frankfort, KY 40601-3415
Phone: (502) 564-5444
Rebecca Combs Lyon
Clerk of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. 
Kentucky Court of Appeals
360 Democrat Drive
Frankfort, KY 40601
Phone: (502) 573-7920

Requesters should visit the Office of Circuit Court Clerk’s website and select the county in question to get information on each  Clerk of the courts.

Requesters may also find court records via the “Find a Case Portal” on the Kentucky Court of Justice website. There are two options to search for court records, either by case number or party names. Requesters must have either of these information to conduct a search.

In Kentucky, persons looking to find criminal records may do so by visiting the court’s Administrative Office. Requesters may obtain a criminal record report for a $25 fee. The administrative office does not accept cash payment; only card payment or money order is allowed. It is open Monday to Friday.

Requesters may also obtain a criminal record report online via the AOCFastCheck and the One-time Request portal. To request criminal records  electronically, requesters must first signup to become registered users on the website. The Kentucky AOC’s database collects court information from the local case management system in all 120 Kentucky counties. It contains millions of records covering all misdemeanor and traffic cases in each county dating back to the past 5 years. The AOCFastCheck allows requesters to order criminal record reports and retrieve the results online at any time. In contrast, the One time Request allows requesters to make a single order and receive reports by U.S. mail.   

Considered open to citizens of the United States, public records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:

  • The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method. 
  • The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states. 

While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources. 

How Do Kentucky Courts Work?

The Kentucky Supreme Court is the highest Appellate court in the state, it is also referred to as the court of last resort and the final interpreter of state law.  The Court hears appeals from the decisions of the Court of Appeals on a discretionary basis. It also hears appeals directly from the Circuit Courts on cases involving the death sentence, life imprisonment sentence, or a prison term of 20 years and above. These types of cases can be heard directly by the Supreme Court, bypassing the Court of Appeal.

The Kentucky Supreme Court issues final decisions on cases referred to it. The court does not retry a case or call additional evidence or witnesses, it only reviews  the lower court’s decision. However, the Supreme Court may choose to hear oral arguments from the lawyers and written briefs that may be filed with the court. The Supreme Court consists of seven justices elected from the seven appellate districts in Kentucky, each serving for eight years. The Chief Justice, which is elected among the 7 Justices, serves a term of four years. In Kentucky, if two or more Supreme Court justices recuse themselves from a case, the Governor of Kentucky may appoint Special Justices to sit for that particular case.

The Supreme Court is also responsible for establishing the procedures and  rules of practice of the courts, including judges and attorneys’ conduct.​

The Kentucky Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court in the state, and it hears appeals from the decisions of the trial courts, the Circuit and District Court. Parties whose cases have been tried by the District or Circuit court may appeal to the Court of Appeals to review the courts’ judgment. The Court of Appeal does not retry a case; it only provides a review of the lower court’s decisions.

The Court of Appeals handles divorce cases where child custody and property rights are in dispute.

The Kentucky Circuit Courts are  referred to as the court of general jurisdiction, and it handles civil matters involving more than $5,000, capital offenses, felonies, and land dispute title cases. The Circuit Court hears appeals from the District Court and administrative agencies. It has the power to issue injunctions, writs of prohibition, and writs of mandamus.

There are 57 Circuit Courts in Kentucky, and each Circuit Court may have more than one judge depending on the counties’ population. Circuit judges serve in eight-year terms. One judge may serve more than one county within a circuit. The Family Court is a Circuit Court division, and it has primary jurisdiction over cases involving dissolution of marriage, child custody, equitable distribution of property in dissolution cases, adoption and termination of parental rights.  The Circuit Court also has jurisdiction over cases involving domestic violence and abuse, dependency, neglect, and abuse, and juvenile status offenses. The family court has only one Judge.

The Kentucky District Court is the court of limited jurisdiction. It handles juvenile cases, misdemeanors, violations, traffic offenses, probate of wills, arraignments, felony probable cause hearings, small claims involving $2,500 or less, civil cases involving $5,000 or less. District judges serve four-year terms. There are 60 District Courts in Kentucky.

 

Kentucky Court Structure

What Are Civil Court and Small Claims in Kentucky?

Small Claims are matters involving disputes over money or property valued at $2500 or less. Generally, individuals who file a suit in the Small Claims court are not required to provide representation from a lawyer; they may choose to represent themselves.

The Kentucky Small Claims Division only hears cases involving a claim of money or property of $2500 or less. Note that the $2,500 limit does not include interest and court costs. The following cases can not be brought to the Small Claims Court:

  • Criminal actions. 
  • Cases of libel, slander.
  • Malicious prosecution.
  • Abuse of process

In Kentucky, there is a statute of limitations on the filing of Small Claims matters. Therefore anyone looking to sue must do so before the statute of limitations end. For example, claims involving oral contracts have a 5-year statute of limitation and for a Written Contract is 15 years.

Persons who can file in the Small Claims court include Individuals, Businesses, or Corporations. The following cannot file a matter in the Small Claims court: 

  • Persons or organization in the business of lending money with interest
  • A collection agency or a collection agent

In Kentucky, the limited number of claims that an individual may file per one calendar year is 25 claims. For a business, it is 25 claims for each established business engaged in trade or commerce for at least six months. Note that these limitations do not apply to claims initiated by city, county, or urban governments.

An individual interested in filing a small claims lawsuit must begin by filing a Small Claims Complaint form AOC-175 with Circuit Court Clerk’s Office. This form may be filled online and printed, it may also be obtained from the Office of the Circuit Court Clerk. Kentucky has the office of the Circuit Court Clerk in all 120 counties.

Small claims complaint may be filed in the county where the person being sued lives or does business, or, in the case of corporations, in the county where its office or place of business is situated. Persons may also sue in the county in which the contract was made or was to have been performed.

After completing the complaint form, take it to the Office of Circuit Court Clerk  for  filing.  A fee will be  charged  for  filling  the  complaint.  The  Office of Circuit Court Clerk will then issue summons to notify the defendant that a  complaint has been filed. The time  and  place of the hearing will be listed on the  Small Claims Summons  AOC-180 form.

Civil courts are the court of general jurisdiction for matters involving damages of $5000 or more.

What Are Appeals and Court Limits in Kentucky?

An appeal is a legal process that involves an appellate court reviewing the decision rendered by a lower court in a case. Kentucky has two appellate courts where individuals may appeal a decision made by a lower court. The Kentucky Court of Appeals is the lower of the two appellate courts under the Kentucky Supreme Court. Before the amendment of the Kentucky constitution in 1975, the Kentucky Court of Appeals was the only appellate court in the state. When a party is unsatisfied with the ruling or decision issued by a Circuit or District Court, an appeal may be filed with the appropriate Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals does not retry cases, it reviews cases previously tried by a lower court. The party who files an appeal must show that the Circuit or District court made a error in its judgment. By doing this, the party must file a Notice of Appeal with the Court of Appeal. After filing the Notice of Appeal, the appellant has 60 days to  prepare a brief and submit it to the Clerk of the Appellate court. A brief is a document that explains the reason why the appellant believes that the lower court made an error. It also discusses the legal arguments or issues in the case. The other party (appellee) must file a brief to respond to the appellant's brief 60 days from the day the appellant’s brief was filed. The appellant's reply brief shall be filed within 15 days after the date of filing of the appellee's brief. The written briefs must sufficiently address the issues for determination. Note that the court does not allow additional evidence or witnesses, it makes its decision based on the records from the trial court. The Court of Appeals expidites cases involving Paternity disputes, Custody battles, Abuse, Neglect, Domestic Violence and Juvenile Offenses. In this case, the appellant must file a brief with the Clerk of the Court Appeals court within 30 days and the appellee's response brief must be filed within 30 days. The appellant's reply brief must be filed within 10 days after the appellee's brief has been filed.

After reviewing the case, the court may affirm, remand or vacate the decision of the Circuit Court. Affirm means that the court may stand by the decision of the Circuit Court.

If the case in the Circuit Court results in a death sentence judgment, life imprisonment, or a sentence of 20 years, the case must be directly appealed to the Supreme Court. A party who loses at the Court of Appeals may appeal to the Supreme Court to review the case.

There are seven Appellate Court districts in Kentucky. The Supreme Court hears appeals from the Court of Appeals on a discretionary basis.  

What are Kentucky Bankruptcy Records?

Kentucky bankruptcy records provide financial information of individuals who have a bankruptcy case filed at the state's bankruptcy court. Bankruptcy records typically contain related financial information such as the debtor's assets, income, debts, creditors' details, and other information. Bankruptcy records in Kentucky are usually available to the public, except in special cases, where the information is sealed by the court. Bankruptcy cases are federal cases and are handled by federal courts with different offices in different districts. In Kentucky, the bankruptcy courts are United States Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Kentucky with offices in Ashland, Covington, Frankfort, Lexington, London, and Pikeville. The Western District has offices in Louisville, Bowling Green, Owensboro, and Paducah.

How Do I Find My Case Number in Kentucky? 

A case number is a unique reference number which is assigned to a case for easy identification. It states the date, the type of case filed, and the court location in which the case was filed. Assigning a case number allows for easy and speedy location of cases for record. In a situation where there is no case number, locating a case might be difficult or even impossible to do. The easiest way to find a case number is to search online via the “Find a Case Portal” on the Court of Justice website. There are two options to conduct a search, either search by the case or by party names, and requesters must have the party’s name to view the court record and case number.

Can You Look up Court Cases in Kentucky?

Yes, you can look up court cases in Kentucky. Usually, most Kentucky  court cases can be accessed by contacting the Clerk of court on record. Kentucky courts also provide members of the public with online access to court records and information. For example, the Court of Justice website allows members of the public to perform a search by case number or  party names through its find a case page.

Do Kentucky Courts Hold Remote Trials?

Yes, Kentucky holds remote trials. Before the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, trials were heard strictly in person. However, to curb the spread of the virus, the Supreme Court of Kentucky issued a directive on the 15th of May 2020. The directive prohibited in-person hearings except in “emergency and time-sensitive matters” like cases involving domestic violence, emergency child custody hearings, and other hearings where someone is being held in custody. Most courts uses online video platforms such as Skype, Zoom, Vidyo, or Chime to hold court hearings with all participants using phones, tablets, or computers. Civil and criminal jury trials are postponed until after February 1, 2021. The new directive allows evictions to proceed, as long as they do not violate the Relief and Security Act (The CARES Act),a  provision that protects tenants from getting evicted for not paying rent between March 27 and July 25 of this 2020 due to COVID 19.

What is the Kentucky Supreme Court?

The Kentucky Supreme Court is the highest Appellate court in the state, its decisions are final.  The Supreme Court hears appeals of decisions from the Court of Appeals, and in some situations, it hears appeals from the Circuit Court. For example, appeals from a sentence of life imprisonment or 20 or more years of imprisonment are heard directly by the Supreme Court. The Court consists of 7 justices who are elected from the appellate districts. These justices are to serve for eight years. TheSupreme Court’s Chief Justice is chosen by the other members of judges and serves a period of four years.  The Supreme Court in addition to its other function establishes rules of practice and procedures for the court of justice.

Kentucky Court of Appeals

The Kentucky Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court in the state and is tasked with reviewing the correctness of the trial court’s decision. If a case is tried in District or Circuit Courts and either party is unsatisfied with the outcome, they may appeal at the Court of Appeals. 

The Court of Appeals has 14 members, two of the members are elected from each of seven districts in Kentucky and serve eight-year terms of office. The Kentucky Court of Appeals judges are elected from the same district as the seven districts that elect the Supreme Court’s seven justices. The Chief Judge is selected among the 14 judges  to serve  a four-year term.The headquarters of Kentucky's Court of Appeal is in Frankfort.

Kentucky Circuit Courts

The Kentucky Circuit Court is Kentucky’s highest trial court. The Circuit Court has original jurisdiction in cases involving capital offences and other felonies, land disputes, contested probate cases, and Civil matters, and disputes with an amount exceeding $5,000. It is also important to note that Circuit Courts hear appeal cases on Property rights disputes, Paternity testing in Divorce cases. Circuit Courts hear appeals from the  District Courts. There are 129 judges, serving for eight years, and 59 domestic relation commissioners. Appeals from decisions of the Circuit Courts are made to the Kentucky Court of Appeal.

Kentucky District Courts

The Kentucky District Court is a court of limited jurisdiction with jurisdiction on misdemeanor criminal offences, traffic violations, violations of county and municipal ordinances, and small claims involving $2,500.

There are two federal District Courts in Kentucky. Each court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Circuit Court’s family court division over proceedings involving Domestic Violence and abuse, the Uniform Parentage Act and Uniform Percentage Act, dependency, child abuse and neglect, and juvenile status offences.

Appeals from decisions of the District Courts are made to the corresponding Circuit Court for that district. Further appeals can be made on a discretionary basis to the Kentucky Court of Appeal as well as the Kentucky Supreme Court. There are 60 judicial districts with 116 judges plus 70 trial commissioners.

Kentucky State Archives

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Kentucky

Kentucky’s Washington County Courthouse was constructed between 1814 and 1815.

  • The Kentucky Supreme Court is the highest court in the state. It is followed by the Court of Appeals, the Circuit Court, the Family Courts, and the District Courts.
  • The Supreme Court was established in 1976. It has 7 judicial positions. 
  • The Court of Appeals has 14 judicial members. 2 of the members are elected from each of the seven districts in which the Court has jurisdiction. 
  • The Kentucky Circuit Courts are divided into 57 different districts. 

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