Abell attends seminar on new penal code

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FRANKFORT, Ky. - In a joint meeting, Kentucky’s justices, judges and circuit court clerks gathered for a full day of education on House Bill 463, which implemented sweeping penal code reform when it went into effect June 8, 2011. Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr. invited all of the elected officials in the Kentucky Court of Justice to the education program provided by the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Layne Abell, Circuit Court Clerk, who serves Bullitt County, participated in the program August 19 in Lexington.

HB 463 sets out the most concentrated overhaul of Kentucky’s penal code in more than 30 years and was supported by all three branches of government. The legislation is designed to curb the cost of incarceration without compromising public safety.

“It can be challenging to overhaul processes that have been in place for years,” Chief Justice Minton said. “The comprehensive education program offered justices, judges and circuit court clerks an important opportunity to learn more about the changes with House Bill 463 as well as ask questions and express concerns, share their early experiences with the bill and seek clarity on various aspects of the new legislation.

“I believe we can all agree that the court system is crucial to the successful implementation of this bill. Just as the passage of this bill called for a multi-branch, bipartisan effort, its implementation also calls for collaboration. We must work together within the court system and with the other branches of government to make the initial change required by HB 463.”

The education program included an overview of HB 463 presented by Chief Justice Minton, Sen. Tom Jensen, Rep. John Tilley and AOC personnel. Sen. Jensen and Rep. Tilley co-chair the Task Force on the Penal Code and Controlled Substances Act that recommended the changes in HB 463. Chief Justice Minton was a member of the task force.

Among the topics the program covered where HB 463 changes regarding bonds, fines, pretrial release and offenses involving controlled substances. The training also addressed risk and needs assessments for pretrial defendants and new procedures under the legislation.

The comprehensive education program was one of three trainings the AOC offered on HB 463.

District Court

District Court is the court of limited jurisdiction and handles juvenile matters, city and county ordinances, misdemeanors, violations, traffic offenses, probate of wills, arraignments, felony probable cause hearings, small claims involving $2,500 or less, civil cases involving $5,000 or less, voluntary and involuntary mental commitments and cases relating to domestic violence and abuse. Appeals from District Court decisions are made to the local Circuit Court.

Circuit Court

Circuit Court is the court of general jurisdiction that hears civil matters involving more than $5,000, capital offenses and felonies, divorces, adoptions, termination of parental rights, land dispute title cases and contested probate cases. Family Court is a division of Circuit Court and has primary jurisdiction in cases involving family issues, including divorces, adoption, child support, domestic violence and juvenile status offenses.

Circuit Court Clerks

Circuit court clerks are responsible for managing the records of Kentucky’s circuit and district courts. Circuit clerks are constitutionally elected officials from all 120 counties and serve a six-year term. 

They provide professional recordkeeping, receive money due the courts, pay money to the required parties and to the state, record legal documents, provide legal documents and other legal materials, maintain the jury system, administer oaths, handle affidavits and issue driver licenses and non-driver ID cards.

Administrative Office of the Courts

The AOC is the operations arm for the state court system and supports the activities of nearly 3,300 court system employees and 403 elected justices, judges and circuit court clerks. The AOC Division of Judicial Branch provides continuing education for district judges. As the fiscal agent for the state court system, the AOC also excutes the Judicial Branch budget.