Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Courier-Journal reporter, photographer get a rare look at Family Court in Jefferson County

The Courier-Journal recently persuaded a Jefferson County Family Court judge to ease Kentucky's strict confidentiality rules long enough to allow reporter Deborah Yetter to research and write a rare report on, and photographer Matt Stone to take pictures of, the court's operations.

The report, the third part of a series on child abuse in the state, was published Tuesday. The story took a close look at several cases involving abused and abandoned children. Judge Joan Byer allowed access "with permission of the parties in the courtroom, as long as children and families weren't identified," Yetter wrote. "Byer said she exercised her discretion to do that because she believes, in most cases, the courts should be open and the public needs to understand what's going on with child welfare." Byer said the system is overburdened and caseworkers are under intense pressure to keep cases closed. (Photo by Matt Stone)

The report included several sidebars, one of which noted that the confidentiality rules usually followed in family court cases exceeded the requirements set by state law, and the practice of some other states. It also quoted childrens' advocates and others as saying excessive secrecy hides faults in the system. The main story can be found here. The sidebar on confidentiality rules is here.

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