COURTS OF KENTUCKY
The Judiciary is an independent body functioning in the State of Kentucky as Provided by its Constitution. The judicial power of the Commonwealth shall be vested exclusively in one Court of Justice which shall be divided into a Supreme Court, a Court of Appeals, a trial court of general jurisdiction known as the Circuit Court and a trial court of limited jurisdiction known as the District Court.
THE SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction only, except it has the power to issue all writs necessary in aid of its appellate jurisdiction, or the complete determination of any cause, or as may be required to exercise control of the Court of Justice.
Appeals from a judgment of the Circuit Court imposing a sentence of death or life imprisonment or imprisonment for twenty years or more shall be taken directly to the Supreme Court. In all other cases, criminal and civil, the Supreme Court shall exercise appellate jurisdiction as provided by its rules.
THE COURT OF APPEALS
The Court of Appeals is exactly what its title implies. Nearly all cases come to it on appeal from a lower court. If a case is tried in District or Circuit court, and the losing parties involved are not satisfied with the outcome, they may ask for a higher court to review the correctness of the trial court's decision.
Some cases, like criminal case acquittals and divorces, may not be appealed. In a divorce case, however, child custody and property rights decisions may be appealed. Cases are not retried in the Court of Appeals. Only the record of the original court trial is reviewed, with attorneys presenting the legal issues to the court for a decision.
The Court of Appeals has appellate jurisdiction only, except that it may be authorized by rules of the Supreme Court to review directly decisions of administrative agencies of the Commonwealth, and it may issue all writs necessary in aid of its appellate jurisdiction, or the complete determination of any cause within its appellate jurisdiction. In all other cases, it shall exercise appellate jurisdiction as provided by law.
THE CIRCUIT COURT
The circuit court has two more divisions The Family court Division and the Drug Court Division
Family Court deals with cases involving families and children the highest priority, which means they do not compete with criminal and civil cases for judicial time. Family Court is a division of Circuit Court, Kentucky's highest trial court level, and employs full-time judges with the same qualifications as those who serve the other divisions of Circuit Court.
In addition to the family matters heard in Circuit Court, Family Court judges also handle other family law matters that were traditionally decided in District Court.
The Circuit Court is the court of general jurisdiction and hears civil matters involving more than $4,000.00. Circuit courts have jurisdiction over cases involving capital offenses and felonies, divorces, adoptions, terminations of parental rights, land dispute title problems and contested probates of will. Circuit courts have the power to issue injunctions, writs of prohibition, writs of mandamus and hear appeals from district courts and administrative agencies. The Circuit Court has original jurisdiction of all justiciable causes not vested in some other court. It has such appellate jurisdiction as may be provided by law.
Family Court jurisdiction is defined by Kentucky Revised Statute which includes the following:
- dissolution of marriage
- spousal support and equitable distribution
- child custody, support and visitation
- paternity, adoption
- domestic violence
- dependency, neglect and abuse
- termination of parental rights
runaways, truancy, beyond control
THE DISTRICT COURTS
The district court is a court of limited jurisdiction and exercises original jurisdiction as well.
The District Court has limited jurisdiction, which means it hears only certain types of cases. Ninety percent of all Kentuckians involved in court proceedings appear in District Court.
Juvenile matters, city and county ordinances, misdemeanors, traffic offenses, probate of wills, felony preliminary hearings, and civil cases involving $4,000 or less are heard in District Court. Guardianship and conservatorship for disabled persons are in District Court, as well as voluntary and involuntary mental commitments and cases relating to domestic violence and abuse.