NEWS AND ARTICLES

Supreme Court provides guidance on jury trials as courts plan to gradually expand operations starting June 1

5-19-2020

Today the Supreme Court provided guidance on jury trials in Administrative Order 2020-40, dated May 19, 2020, and effective June 1, 2020. The complete order can be found here and the highlights are below:

  • Jury trials shall be postponed and rescheduled for no sooner than August 1, 2020.

  • Grand jury proceedings may begin effective June 1, 2020.

  • Cases where the 60-day period in RCr 5.22(3) or an extension thereof was tolled by operation of Administrative Order 2020-28 must be presented to the grand jury on or before July 30, 2020.

  • Existing grand jury panels may be extended at the discretion of the court, subject to the 20-day limitation set out in AP Part II, Sec. 19(3).  

  • If an existing grand jury panel cannot be extended, the order provides guidance on how to orient a new jury panel. 

  • Jurors who are ill, caring for someone who is ill, in a high-risk category, unable to wear a facial covering, or who will suffer further economic loss as a result of jury service shall have their service postponed or excused. 

  • Strict health and safety requirements – including mandatory use of facial coverings by jurors, social distancing and disinfecting – must be followed for all grand jury proceedings.

Judicial Branch announces plan to resume limited in-person court services starting June 1st

5-18-2020

On May 15, 2020,  two weeks after announcing that the Judicial Branch had formed three task forces to determine how to gradually resume in-person court services, the Supreme Court has released its reopening plan.

“Our priority is to implement a limited, phased reopening that will allow greater access to the courts while keeping court personnel and the public safe through social distancing and other precautions,” Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr. said in an email today to the justices, judges, circuit court clerks and court personnel who serve the Judicial Branch.

Supreme Court Order Expanding Court Operations

Health and Safety Requirements for the Expansion of Operations can be found in Supreme Court Administrative Order 2020-39, dated May 15, 2020, and effective June 1, 2020. The directives are extensive and the main points are here:

  • Courts may resume hearing all civil and criminal matters.

  • All hearings should be conducted remotely, unless the judge determines that an in-person hearing is necessary.

  • If a matter requires an in-person hearing, several safety precautions must be observed, including limiting courtroom capacity, social distancing, facial coverings and frequent disinfecting of public spaces.

  • Entrance to court facilities is limited to individuals with a scheduled in-person hearing and those filing emergency protective orders, interpersonal protective orders and emergency custody orders. 

  • All Kentucky Court of Justice officials and employees and all members of the public entering a court facility must wear a facial covering. 

  • Members of the public are prohibited from bringing purses or similarly enclosed bags into court facilities, unless items in the bags are medically necessary. 

  • Telework will be encouraged for any employee who is able to do so. 

  • Staffing will be limited to 50%, unless an exception is granted by the Department of Human Resources.

“Producing the reopening plan took an intense effort,” Chief Justice Minton said. “I want to thank the three Supreme Court justices for their work on this unprecedented assignment: Deputy Chief Justice Lisabeth T. Hughes, chair of the Circuit Court Task Force; Justice Debra Hembree Lambert, chair of the Family Court Task Force; and Justice Michelle M. Keller, chair of the District Court Task Force. 

He said that in addition to the reopening order, the Supreme Court will issue specific guidance on driver’s license services and certain court matters, such as evictions and jury service, in the coming days.

Health and Safety Requirements for Court Personnel

The Administrative Office of the Courts has also produced a detailed guide to help the elected officials and non-elected court personnel implement the required health and safety measures. The Kentucky Court of Justice COVID-19 Health and Safety Requirements can be found here

“As you know, the majority of court matters are not voluntary,” Chief Justice Minton said. “People can choose whether to eat at a restaurant or go shopping, but in most instances they don’t get to choose whether they go to court. We’re incorporating as many of the governor’s requirements as possible into our orders to maintain a high standard of safety for our employees, elected officials and the public.” 

You can find ongoing court updates on the COVID-19 and the Courts webpage.

Shared Parenting During COVID-19

5-11-2020


Do I have to follow my parenting schedule during the COVID-19 pandemic?

As more parents are going back to work in fields with potential exposure to COVID-19, everyone is asking this question right now. Generally, the answer is YES.

Parents are required to follow all existing court orders, whether they agree with them or not.  If a parent fails to follow a court order, even during an emergency, they could be held in contempt of court, which could mean jail time, paying attorney fees, and any other sanctions the court finds appropriate.  

However, The Kentucky Supreme Court has issued General Order 2020-14 on which was effective through April 24, 2020; and on May 6, 2020, entered General Order 2020-32, which is effective through May 31, 2020. These General Orders address parenting time and provide guidance following COVID-19 exposure. These Orders start with the premise that the existing orders shall control.
 
In relevant part the orders state: 
 
"The existing court order shall be considered temporarily modified to suspend parenting time for a period of 14 days for any person who:

1. Tests positive for COVID-19 or shares a household with someone who tests positive for COVID-19;

2. Has been advised that he or she, or someone with whom he or she shares a household, has possibly been exposed to COVID-19; or

3. Has, within the last 14 days, traveled to any area with a CDC Level 2 or 3 Travel Health Notice.
Any person experiencing the above-listed circumstances shall, upon discovery, immediately notify the other party(ies).

Any person whose parenting time is suspended pursuant to this order shall be granted liberal communication with the child(ren) subject to any restrictions specifically stated in the existing order(s)….

This Order shall be effective through May 31, 2020, or until further Order of this Court."
We highly recommend consulting an attorney prior to unilaterally suspending the court ordered parenting time!
The complete 2020-32 General Order can be found here!

Supreme Court issues additional guidance on handling court matters during pandemic

4-24-2020

The Supreme Court has provided additional guidance this week on how court matters are to be handled during the COVID-19 pandemic. The two orders, issued April 23 and April 24, are in effect through May 31, 2020.
Administrative Order 2020-28, dated April 24, 2020, replaces in its entirety Administrative Order 2020-22, dated April 14, 2020. This order remains in effect through May 31, 2020, and does the following:
  • Clarifies that the suspension of evictions does not excuse an individual’s obligation to pay rent or comply with other obligations under tenancy.
  • Advises attorneys, to the extent possible, to continue to prepare and litigate cases to minimize delay upon expiration of the order.
  • Suspends grand jury proceedings through the expiration of the order.
  • Suspends the 60-day period in RCr 5.22(3) from March 16, 2020, until the expiration of the order.
  • Encourages judges to give priority in setting hearing and trial dates to cases where the defendant is in custody and proceedings have been suspended by the Supreme Court’s response to the COVID-19 emergency.
The Supreme Court also amended the emergency release schedule, which clarifies that the order applies only to new arrests and does not apply to drug court violations, probation violations, any violations of conditions of release, persistent felony offender charges or escape charges. Administrative Order 2020-27, dated April 23, 2020, replaces in its entirety Administrative Order 2020-25, dated April 14, 2020.
The Supreme Court originally issued the emergency release schedule and emergency pretrial drug testing standards April 14 to help protect the health and safety of its criminal justice partners and defendants housed in county jails. The emergency release schedule temporarily expands the current Administrative Release Program as follows:
  • Defendants who are arrested for any nonviolent/nonsexual misdemeanor and/or Class D felony (including defendants arrested on an indictment warrant) and have not been assessed as a high risk for new criminal activity shall be released on recognizance.
  • Defendants who are charged with any nonviolent/nonsexual Class D felony, are a high risk for failure to appear, or have previously failed to appear on any nonviolent/nonsexual misdemeanor or Class D felony shall be supervised by Pretrial Services.
  • Defendants who are served with a warrant for nonpayment of court costs, fees or fines or with a warrant for failure to appear on a violation shall be cited and released and a show cause hearing shall be set after May 31, 2020.
  • Defendants who are arrested for contempt of court on civil matters (excluding any violation of a protective order), nonpayment of child support or nonpayment of restitution shall be released on recognizance and a show cause hearing shall be set after May 31, 2020.
  • Defendants not released under this schedule or under the current Administrative Release Program shall be reviewed by a judge within 12 hours of their arrest.

HOW DOES DIVORCE, SEPARATION AND SHARED CUSTODY AFFECT YOUR COVID-19 STIMULUS CHECK?

4-21-2020

The COVID-19 stimulus checks are flowing into bank accounts and mailboxes. With that comes a plethora of new questions and issues for individuals who are going through divorce, separation and sharing custody of children. This is uncharted territory and it is impossible to know exactly how our courts will handle all issues relating to the COVID-19 stimulus checks. Based on our experience with the courts in Madison and surrounding counties, here is some guidance for commonly asked questions:
 
  • My spouse and I are divorced or separated, and my spouse has control over the bank account where the check was deposited. How do I get my share?
If you filed a joint tax return in 2018 or 2019, the COVID-19 stimulus funds will be deposited into the same account your tax refund was deposited into for your most recent year. If one party receives all the stimulus proceeds, generally they should give the other party half of it. It is clear that the intent of the stimulus program is for each adult to receive some economic relief. However, there could be circumstances that would warrant an uneven split of the stimulus proceeds, but you should consult with a family law attorney before unilaterally withholding funds from the other party. Likewise, you should consult with a family law attorney on how to recover your portion of the stimulus proceeds if the other party refuses to equally split the stimulus proceeds.
 
  • We were never married and file taxes individually. Who will get the $500 for the children?
The stimulus proceeds for children will be deposited into the account of the individual who claimed the children on their last tax return. We believe the courts will expect these proceeds to go to the household where it will be most beneficial to the children. If the proceeds would benefit the children equally in both households, we suggest that the parents split the check evenly with each other. If you are unable to reach an agreement, we recommend that you preserve the stimulus proceeds and consult with a family law attorney.
 
  • If a person is behind on child support will their COVID-19 stimulus check be intercepted or reduced?
Yes, if the child support is collected through the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Just like the IRS intercepts tax refunds for child support arrears, the stimulus checks will be subject to interception as well. Court orders that require direct payment between the parties, generally will not be the subject of a tax intercept.

USEFUL TIPS:
  • Use common sense! Regardless of your relationship with your ex, it will be hard to argue why you kept (and maybe spent) the $2,400 stimulus check you received knowing it was intended for both you and your spouse during these extraordinary times. It is clear the intent is for each adult to receive some sort of economic benefit.
  • Courts are closed for non-emergency matters. If you cannot agree on how the funds are to be split and you need a court to decide for you, be sure to preserve those funds in a savings or a trust account, and do not spend it until a court weighs in.
  • Contact us. We can walk you through your particular situation as it relates to your stimulus check proceeds. While we cannot predict exactly how the courts will decide, we can help you understand the possible outcomes based on our prior experience with the courts.

The Kentucky Supreme Court also issued a new emergency release schedule and emergency pretrial drug testing standards

4-14-2020

The Kentucky Supreme Court has issued a new emergency release schedule and emergency pretrial drug testing standards to help protect the health and safety of its criminal justice partners and defendants housed in county jails. Administrative Order 2020-25, dated April 14, 2020, will be in effect through May 31, 2020.
The emergency release schedule temporarily expands the current Administrative Release Program (which expedites pretrial release of  low- to moderate-risk defendants charged with nonviolent, nonsexual misdemeanors) as follows:
  • Defendants who are charged with, or arrested for failure to appear on, any nonviolent/nonsexual misdemeanor and/or Class D felony (including defendants arrested on an indictment warrant) and have not been assessed as a high risk for new criminal activity shall be released on recognizance.
  • Defendants who are charged with any nonviolent/nonsexual Class D felony, are a high risk for failure to appear, or have previously failed to appear on any nonviolent/nonsexual misdemeanor or Class D felony shall be supervised by Pretrial Services.
  • Defendants who are served with a warrant for nonpayment of court costs, fees or fines or with a warrant for failure to appear on a violation shall be cited and released and a show cause hearing shall be set after May 31, 2020.
  • Defendants who are arrested for contempt of court on civil matters (excluding any violation of a protective order), nonpayment of child support or nonpayment of restitution shall be released on recognizance and a show cause hearing shall be set after May 31, 2020.
  • Defendants not released under this schedule or under the current Administrative Release Program shall be reviewed by a judge within 12 hours of their arrest.
The pretrial drug testing standards provide guidelines for pretrial drug testing providers to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for both the providers and defendants.

Click here for more details

Supreme Court extends suspension of in-person court services through May 31, 2020

4-14-2020

With the COVID-19 state of emergency still in place in Kentucky and nationwide, the Supreme Court today extended the effective date of the order that governs court operations during the pandemic. Administrative Order 2020-22, dated April 14, 2020, replaces in its entirety Administrative Order 2020-16, dated April 1, 2020. The effective date of the order has been extended from May 1 to May 31, 2020.
The Supreme Court order restricts dockets, jury trials and jury service from taking place in-person at court facilities and requires court proceedings to be conducted remotely.

Click here for more details

KENTUCKY SUPREME COURT EXTENDS COURT RESTRICTIONS UNTIL  APRIL 24, 2020

3-26-2020

The Kentucky Supreme Court has issued a new order which extends the restrictions on in-person court proceedings until April 24th. We will remain able to request hearings on emergency and time-sensitive matters by telephone or video including bonds/detention hearings, criminal evidentiary hearings, preliminary hearings, probation violation hearings, domestic violence hearings, emergency custody hearings and temporary child support hearings. We can also electronically file most other pleadings, although a hearing may not be set until after the restrictions are lifted.

 

Click here for more details

KENTUCKY ABC ISSUES FAQ'S CLARIFYING DELIVERY AND CARRYOUT

3-24-2020

Today, the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control issued this list of "Frequently Asked Questions" to help clarify the recent Orders related to alcohol sales with food delivery and carryout. 

 

Click here for more details

KENTUCKY SUPREME COURT ORDERS DOCKETS CANCELED

3-6-2020

The Kentucky Supreme Court has ordered most criminal and civil dockets to be canceled from March 16, 2020, until April 10, 2020, due to the Coronavirus. THIS DOES NOT MEAN ALL COURT DATES ARE CANCELED! We will be contacting clients to notifying them if their court dates have been rescheduled. 

Click here for more details

NEW LAWS EFFECTIVE JUNE 27, 2019

Felony Expungement - Senate Bill 57 will expand the number of Kentuckians eligible to have low-level felonies expunged from their criminal. It will do this by expanding discretionary expungement to all Class D felonies with some exceptions for crimes such as stealing in office, abusing children and sexual abuse. It includes a five-year waiting period to apply for expungement, reduces the application fee from $500 to $250 and provisions for prosecutors to object and judges to reject the applications.

 

Strangulation - Senate Bill 70 will make non-fatal strangulation its own felony crime.

 

DUI - Senate Bill 85 extends Kentucky’s first offense DUI license suspension and ignition interlock requirements. 

Click here to see more about the new laws effective June 27, 2019

MADISON COUNTY SHERIFF ANNOUNCES DUI ROADBLOCKS

The Madison County Sheriff’s Office (Kentucky) has announced they will be conducting traffic safety checkpoints throughout the Memorial Day weekend. These checkpoints will be conducted in an effort to enforce the traffic laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Special attention will be paid to occupant protection (seatbelt adherence), sobriety, insurance, and registration violations. 

Remember you may have a defense if you are cited or arrested as a result of these check points! You should contact a lawyer as soon as possible! 

Click here for the traffic safety checkpoint locations as approved by the Madison County Sheriff's Office! 

Randy O'Neal Recognized for Service as Bar Association President

May 5, 2017

On Thursday, May 4, 2017, Randy O'Neal was recognized at the annual Madison County Law Day Dinner for serving as the 2016 - 2017 President of the Madison County Bar Association. Randy has previously served the Madison County Bar Association as Vice-President (2015 - 2016), Treasurer (2014 - 2015) and Secretary ( 2013 - 2014).  

New child-custody law lets Ky. children win with shared parenting

April 12, 2017

BY MATT HALE, LEXINGTON HERALD LEADER​

Monday, Gov. Matt Bevin signed a revised law affecting temporary child-custody orders — the starting point for divorces. Kentucky’s House and Senate unanimously approved the law, which creates a presumption of joint custody and equal parenting time.

The new law, House Bill 492, answers many Kentucky children’s prayers. The Easter bunny is bringing children a better chance to see both parents after a divorce.

Children in married families enjoy both their parents. Before the new law, children in divorced families enjoyed whichever parent the court picked (primary custody). These children may be allowed a short visit with the other parent. 

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