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Department of Public Advocacy Justice & Public Safety Cabinet

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                          Contact: Cara Lane Cape

(502) 564-8006

​Kentucky's Public Defenders are Concerned about a Premature

Return to Open Court Proceedings

FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 26, 2020) - As a precaution to protect participants from possible exposure and spread of COVID-19, most criminal court proceedings have been suspended since March, but that is about to change and public defender leaders are worried about what they may mean for the health of their attorneys and others in the system.

On May 15, the Supreme Court of Kentucky issued an order that trial courts in June could “resume hearing civil and criminal matters using available telephonic and video technology to conduct all proceedings remotely.” In the days since the order was issued, however, some trial courts have announced an intention to resume hearings as early as June 1 with all parties physically present in the courtroom, not appearing through remote means as ordered by the Supreme Court. A few courts have already scheduled dockets for early June with hundreds of cases scheduled to be heard in-person each day.

According to the leaders of the Department of Public Advocacy (DPA), which is responsible for providing hundreds of public defenders to represent clients before every criminal court in the Commonwealth, those trial courts may be going too far too quickly. Public Advocate Damon Preston said, “The Supreme Court announced a careful plan for a temporary transition stage as a bridge from the period of presumptive court closure that has been in place since March and a future period when courts can return to some degree of normal proceedings. We believe all courts should follow this gradual approach, which begins with online remote hearings.”

Download full release HERE.


Department of Public Advocacy Justice & Public Safety Cabinet

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                          Contact: Cara Lane Cape

(502) 564-8006

 Kentucky's System of Pretrial Release is Badly Broken

FRANKFORT, Ky. (January 21, 2019) - In an important step towards the goal of ensuring a constitutional pretrial release system in Kentucky, the Department of Public Advocacy, acting on behalf of 10 named clients who are representative of hundreds of clients throughout the Commonwealth, asked the Supreme Court of Kentucky on Friday to use its authority over the Court of Justice to establish clear constitutional rules for pretrial release decisions by trial and appellate courts in the Commonwealth. In the 39-page petition signed by Public Advocate Damon L. Preston, Deputy Public Advocacy B. Scott West, and Post-Trial Division Director Timothy G. Arnold, the Department raises numerous challenges to pretrial release practices across the state and argues that Supreme Court action is necessary to fix the problems. Of the request, Public Advocate Preston said, “As our petition makes clear, Kentucky’s system of pretrial release is badly broken. As legal counsel to most of the thousands of Kentuckians who are held in jails pretrial, we have to act to protect our clients’ presumption of innocence and constitutional right to reasonable bail.” READ FULL RELEASE