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How do Kentucky Courts work?

In the state of Kentucky, the Supreme Court functions as the highest legal authority, and therefore has the power to oversee decisions made by lesser courts. For example, the Supreme Court can check any decision made by the Court of Appeals, weighing in on any legal conflicts and questions. The Court of Appeals then acts in a similar manner over the courts below it in the tier system, reviewing decisions made when one party contests. These lower courts are made up of the 120trial and superior courts across Kentucky’s 120 counties. Other tiers of court in Kentucky include, Circuit Court, Circuit Court Clerks, District Court, and Family Court.

Civil Cases and Small Claims

Civil courts and small claims court deal with different types of cases and different values of money in the state of Kentucky. For example, civil courts deal with cases in which the claimant is seeking over $250,000 in funds. There are more than 150,000 of these cases filed each and every year across the state. However, the civil court is not limited to just these, as it also hears some cases on disputes over such things as property, name changes, and restraining orders. On the other hand, the small claims court is in place to hear claims in which the petitioner is looking for $1,500 or under. These are nearly 150,000 of these annually across Kentucky. These can range from disputes over warranties and loans to deposits, repairs, and much more, as long as the value remains under $1,500. The small claims court in Kentucky can also order a defendant into an action, for example, paying back an amount of money owed.

Appeals and court limits

There are also key differences between the appeals processes and the court limits surrounding small claims courts and civil courts in the state of Kentucky. Civil courts allow pretrial discovery, where as small claims courts do not. Civil courts also allow a person to hire a professional lawyer to represent them and file papers on their behalf, while neither of these things is allowed in small claims court. Small claims courts have a case filing fee of between $30 and $100, after which each part is given 30-70 days to complete their respective case. On the other hand, civil courts have claim filing fees of between $180 and $320, with the parties being given up to 120 days to complete their cases. Only the defendant may appeal a small claims court decision, while either party can appeal in the civil court.

Why are court records public?

The Kentucky Open Records Act was introduced in 1976, with the most recent changes coming in 1994. The Act was brought in to ensure that all residents of Kentucky had the fundamental right to access all public records. Any public record held by the local or state government can be accessed and copied by members of the public, providing another law does not prohibit it. This helps to safeguard government accountability in the state, as well as promoting a sense of transparency between state and public.

To access records:


Supreme Court of Kentucky
State Capitol, Room 235
700 Capitol Avenue
Frankfort, KY 40601
Phone: (502) 564-5444


Kentucky Court Structure
Kentucky State Archives

State Archives

Contact: (502) 305-8536

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Results are based upon available information from state, county and municipal databases, and may not include some or all of the above details.


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.