An estimated 1.2 million cases enter the judicial system of Kentucky on an annual basis. In fact, it would be safe to suggest that almost every resident of the state will interact with the judiciary at some point and in some way.
For instance, everything from filing a claim against an insurance company or a business partner to seeking protection from an abusive spouse and from settling estate related issues of a deceased relative to obtaining a driving license, the court will have to be approached for all these and more. So, you may as well understand how the judicial network in Kentucky functions
A unified court system
The Kentucky constitution which includes the Judicial Article laid down the foundation for the unified court system of the state. The judiciary was created as an independent branch of the government that would function exclusively of the legislative and the executive wings. \
The Supreme Court was held as the entity in which the judicial powers of the state would be vested. Apart from this, numerous other tribunals were also made part of the judicial system to deal with various civil and criminal matters.
The legal pathway taken by criminal and civil matters in the state
Courts in Kentucky can be divided into four levels; at the bottom of the judicial pyramid are circuit and district courts which are both trial tribunals. All matters whether civil or criminal are first heard in these courts and this is where the first verdict comes out. Every judicial circuit has a circuit court and one or more district courts depending on the size of the judicial district and caseload.
The two intermediate appellate courts come next; these hear matters that are brought up from the lower level tribunals to determine if the rights of the defendant were compromised in any way and if a mistake was made when considering the matter. All citizens have the right to appeal a lawsuit once; however, further appeals will be heard at the discretion of the court.
An appeal made with an appellate court does guarantee a review; however, there may or may not be any changes made to the verdict depending on the matter in hand. At this level, a hearing does not include the scrutiny of witness testimony and evidence. The proceedings involve arguments and written reports submitted from both sides.
The courts of Kentucky
The Supreme Court: Also known as the Kentucky court of justice, this is truly the last judicial resort in the state. The ruling of this tribunal can be published which means that they become the law in all similar cases.
Most matters brought up for appeal in front of the Supreme Court come from the intermediate appellate tribunals. However, cases where the sentence exceed twenty years or those in which the penalty involves capital punishment or life imprisonment are directly heard by the Supreme Court which is the ultimate interpreter of the state laws.
The apex court has appellate and original jurisdiction and it has the discretionary powers to choose matters that are heard by its bench. The Supreme Court comprises of seven justices including the Chief justice who are all selected from the seven Supreme Court districts of the state
Intermediate appellate courts: All appeals from the circuit court are heard by the Kentucky Court of Appeals. The case is not retried at this level only reviewed again. The Court of Appeals has 14 judges, they sit is panels of 3 and each panel moves around the state to hear and decide on matters.
The trial courts: The circuit court is a tribunal with general jurisdiction which means it hears all types of cases. In contrast district courts have limited jurisdiction and they can only handle cases pertaining to municipal ordinances, violations, misdemeanors and civil matters involving a claim of less than $5000. Similarly family courts have limited jurisdiction to rule in matters pertaining to adoption, custody and relationships.