The Kentucky Court of Justice is a four-tiered system of adjudication including a Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Circuit Court, and District Court. In 2002, a constitutional amendment was approved formally sanctioning the creation of Family Courts.
Divisions within the Kentucky Judicial Branch
The Supreme Court of Kentucky is the highest court in the Commonwealth and the final interpreter of the law. It consists of seven justices who are elected from the seven appellate districts and serve eight-year terms. The Chief Justice of the Commonwealth is chosen by his or her colleagues and serves a term of four years. The Supreme Court is also responsible for establishing rules of practice and procedures for the Court of Justice, which includes the conduct of judges and attorneys.
Court of Appeals If a case is tried in District or Circuit court, and the losing parties involved are not satisfied with the outcome, in many cases they may ask for the Court of Appeals to review the correctness of the trial court's decision.
Circuit Court is Kentucky’s highest trial court, and has general jurisdiction in civil matters involving more than $5,000, capital offenses and felonies, land dispute title cases and contested probate cases.
Family Court is a division of the Circuit Court devoted exclusively to cases involving families and children. Family Court provides one judge to hear all of a family’s issues relating to divorce, child custody, adoption, termination of parental rights, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect.
District Courts 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.
Circuit Court Clerks are responsible for managing the records of Circuit and District courts, Kentucky trial courts. They have offices in all 120 Kentucky counties and are elected for six-year terms.
Administrative Office of the Courts is the operational arm of the Judicial Branch. The AOC supports court facilities and programs in all 120 counties, with its main campus in Frankfort. The office provides numerous forms of administrative support to the courts and judges including maintenance of records, personnel, pretrial preparation, and juvenile support.