Attorney General’s Opinion Does Not Change Court Records Access

by Gabe Bullard on May 3, 2011

A recent decision from the Kentucky Attorney General’s office regarding the Open Records Act is unlikely to have any larger ramifications.

The office declared this week that court records are not subject to the state’s Open Records Act. The decision came in response to a case out of Paducah. A man who was denied documents by a district court clerk appealed the rejection as a violation of the Open Records Act.

It’s true that the act—which was passed by the legislative branch—does not regulate the judicial branch. But the state and federal constitutions do, and attorney Jon Fleischaker says that mandate is stronger than the Open Records Act.

“What he needs to do is go back to the court and say ‘I’m entitled to those under the First Amendment and the equivalent Kentucky law’ and see what happens there. And then you can take that up to an appellate court if you don’t get satisfaction from the district court,” he says.

Fleischaker says the attorney general’s opinion is unlikely to have any effect beyond the case that prompted it. Court records may still be closed through a court ruling, however.

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