This is an official copy of the following document.

 

OAG 97-18

June 20, 1997


Subject: Whether social services workers of the Cabinet for Families and Children fall within the phrase "the public," as used in KRS 403.770(1), so that a district or circuit court clerk may not lawfully supply such personnel with a complete copy of a domestic violence petition.

Written by: Gerard R. Gerhard

Requested by: Angela M. Ford, General Counsel, Cabinet for Human Resources

Syllabus: Local social services workers acting in their official capacity are not members of "the public," as that phrase is used in KRS 403.770(1). Accordingly, they may not, upon such basis, be properly denied a copy of a domestic violence petition displaying the address of an adult or child shown upon the petition.

OAGs cited: None.

Statutes construed: KRS 209.010; 209.030(3); 209.140; 403.770(1); 620.040; 620.050(3); 620.050(4).



Opinion of the Attorney General

This office was asked, in substance, to indicate whether a district or circuit court clerk is prevented, by KRS 403.770(1), from providing to what is now the Cabinet for Families and Children, or its local social services workers, a copy of a domestic violence petition which displays the actual address of the petitioner, and where applicable, minor children.

In our view the answer is no. Local social services workers, acting in their official capacity, are not members of "the public," as that phrase is used in KRS 403.770(1). Accordingly, they may not, upon such basis, be properly denied access to the address of one who has tendered a domestic violence petition, or the address of children shown in such petition. Discussion follows.

The question arises because some court clerks deny local social services workers a copy of a domestic violence petition (AOC form 275.1) with the petitioner's address or that of minor children visible, based upon language contained in the Circuit Clerk's Manual (Rev. 7/14/92, Section 605.1) indicating that only the petitioner and the petitioner's counsel are entitled to access to the domestic violence file containing the petitioner's address and the address of any minor children. Additionally, a letter of the General Counsel for the Administrative Office of the Courts indicates, in part, that "there is no authority for allowing the original petition to be made public, which is what the clerk would be doing in copying the original to social services."

KRS 403.770(1) provides:

The court, when issuing an emergency protective order, when authenticating a foreign protective order, or when causing the issuance of a summons, shall order the omission or deletion of the petitioner's address, and the address of any minor children from any documents to be made available to the public, or to the person or persons who engaged in the alleged act or acts of domestic violence and abuse.

The Cabinet and its agents (for example, local social services workers employed by the Cabinet) have express statutory duties regarding the protection of both adults and children who might be abused. Those duties call for the Cabinet to receive and investigate information regarding possible abuse of adults or children. See, for example, KRS 209.010, 209.030(3), 620.040, and 620.050(3).

Given the statutory role of the Cabinet for Families and Children, its employees, when acting in their official capacity, cannot properly be considered as a part of "the public" from which the address of the petitioner or minor children is to be withheld in accordance with KRS 403.770(1). Reinforcing this view is the fact that information obtained by the Cabinet's employees is under statutory confidentiality constraints. See KRS 209.140 and KRS 620.050(4).

For a court clerk to deny local social services workers a copy of a domestic violence petition showing the address of one who has tendered a domestic violence petition, or the address of children mentioned in such petition, on the theory that social services workers are among "the public" as used in KRS 403.770(1), would be inconsistent with the official role of such workers. Providing such document, on the other hand, furthers the public interest in facilitating delivery of services to those who have been victims of abuse or neglect.

The view expressed in this opinion will not require the generation of an additional document. Under current practice, a copy of a domestic violence petition form is forwarded to local social services workers. In some instances, however, certain address information contained upon the form is masked. The effort to mask such information is obviated by the view expressed above.

A. B. CHANDLER III

ATTORNEY GENERAL



Gerard R. Gerhard

Assistant Attorney General