Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chief Justice continues to support legislation to open some Family Court proceedings

Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton Jr. would support another effort by the legislature to open family court proceedings to the public, according to a statement from his office to Kentucky Citizens for Open Government.

Reacting to The Courier-Journal's reporting on Family Court proceedings in Jefferson County, Minton's statement said he supported Judge Joan Byer's decision to allow access to a Courier-Journal reporter with the permission of the parties and the condition that no one be identified. Under court rules, Family Court proceedings are normally closed to the public, because they often involve juveniles, but judges have discretion to open them.

“We have a number of judges who work daily in the system who have openly expressed their support for allowing the public to see what is going on in certain types of juvenile proceedings," Minton said. "These judges are attempting to follow model programs that have been successful across the country and to bring best practices to the courts of Kentucky. I support the work of these judges and encourage their efforts to provide greater accessibility."

Minton noted that the General Assembly declined last year to pass a bill setting up a pilot project to open some Family Court proceedings. "I would support similar legislation if introduced again,” he said.

UPDATE, Dec. 19: Yetter picked up on Minton's statement to KCOG and the KOG Blog and wrote a front-page story quoting him and legislators on the issue: "Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, a co-sponsor of the 2008 bill, said she’s willing to try again given the extent of problems that appear to beset the state’s child-protection system. Opening the courts might be a step toward shedding some light on the state’s overall system of protecting children from neglect and abuse, she said." Yetter notes, "Half the 50 states — including Indiana, Tennessee and Ohio — permit some access to juvenile and family courts, according to a 2008 joint report by the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego Law School and First Star, a Washington child advocacy group."

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