Kentucky Supreme Court

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The Kentucky Supreme Court is the state supreme court of Kentucky. It was created by a 1975 constitutional amendment. Prior to that the Kentucky Court of Appeals was the only appellate court in Kentucky. The Kentucky Court of Appeals is now Kentucky's intermediate appellate court.

Appeals involving a death sentence, a life sentence or any sentence of more than twenty years go directly to the Kentucky Supreme Court, bypassing the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Other appeals are heard on a discretionary basis on appeal from the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

The Kentucky Supreme Court promulgates the Rules of Court and Rules of Evidence and is the final arbiter for bar admissions and discipline.

In the event that two or more justices of the Kentucky Supreme Court recuse themselves from a case, the Governor of Kentucky appoints Special Justices to sit for that particular case.

The court meets in a courtroom located on the second floor of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort. The second floor of the capitol building is also home to offices for the justices and Supreme Court personnel.

The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), under the aegis of the Kentucky Supreme Court, serves as the administrative support agency for Kentucky courts and Circuit Court Clerks. The role of the AOC is similar to that of the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) for the Kentucky General Assembly.

Notable decisions of the Kentucky Supreme Court include Kentucky v. Wasson, 842 S.W.2d 487 (Ky. 1992), in which the court invalidated the criminalization of same-sex sodomy as an Equal Protection violation. This Kentucky decision, based on the Kentucky Constitution, was made at a time when the applicable federal Equal Protection precedent was Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986), which held that federal constitutional protection of the right of privacy was not implicated in laws penalizing homosexual sodomy. In 2003 the United States Supreme Court reversed itself and overturned Bowers, issuing a decision in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003) that mirrored Kentucky's Wasson ruling.

Kentucky Supreme Court rulings on ballot measures

Year Type Ballot measure Legal issue Plaintiff Defendant Court ruling Impact
- - - - - - - -


The Court has seven justices, each of whom is elected for an eight year term from one of seven geographic districts in non-partisan elections. The justices' terms are staggered; they do not all run for election in the same years. The justices choose one of their number to serve a four year term as chief justice.

  • Joseph E. Lambert, Chief Justice
  • Bill Cunningham
  • John D. Minton, Jr.
  • Lisabeth Hughes Abramson
  • Mary C. Noble
  • Wilfred Schroder
  • Will T. Scott


External links