The Judicial Branch interprets the laws and maintains our statewide court system: the Kentucky Court of Justice. This system of law and order is far different from what you may have seen on TV. It is a complicated process designed to decide what is just and to protect the rights of all involved.
What's the big deal about justice?
What's the big deal about "justice" you ask? At its core, justice is about protecting our rights and guaranteeing fairness from our government and from other citizens. Everyone makes decisions about fairness and justice on a daily basis. If you take a cookie without asking, your parents may decide that it is fair for you to wash the dishes that evening. In this case, your parents have made a judgment about fairness.
Similarly, there are elected judges in the judicial system who make decisions about justice and fairness for the courts. Our system of justice is a privilege because it protects us from unfair judgments. For example, what if your dog took the cookie, not you? You would want to be able to appeal to your parents. You would present the evidence-dirty paw prints on the counter-and argue your case. This is similar to how the Kentucky Court of Justice works.
The Kentucky Court of Justice handles everything from minor cases such as traffic violations to very serious ones, such as murder. Some courts deal with criminal charges against juveniles and adults, some deal with just family issues, and others are for disputes among citizens.
Divisions of the Kentucky Court of Justice
Kentucky Supreme Court
This is the "court of last resort."
Court of Appeals
People who believe other court decisions were made unfairly may appeal to this court in hopes of a different outcome.
The 95 circuit court judges and 34 family circuit court judges travel from county to county to deal with the more serious cases and felonies. They also make decisions on family issues such as adoption and divorce.
The 116 district court judges deal with less serious issues and misdemeanors. They also hear most juvenile cases-cases dealing with people under the age of 18.
Circuit Court Clerks
One circuit court clerk is elected in each county to take care of the documentation and filing for all of the circuit and district court proceedings in their county.
Administrative Office of the Courts
This is a large division of the Kentucky Court of Justice that offers numerous forms of support to the courts and judges. This office helps with filing, personnel, pretrial preparation, and juvenile support. They even offer educational opportunities such as We the People and Project Citizen that your teachers can use in the classroom.