NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
December 9, 1994
IN RE: Susan Parsons/Fayette County Attorney
OPEN RECORDS DECISION
This appeal originated in a request for court records submitted by Ms. Susan Parsons, of WTVQ-TV, to the Fayette County Attorney on October 27, 1994. Ms. Parsons requested access to "[a]ll juvenile court records of Antonio Orlando Sullivan of Lexington, Kentucky [, who] . . . died October 25, 1994." On behalf of the Fayette County Attorney, Mr. Raymond F. DeBolt, Jr., Director of Juvenile Prosecution, denied Ms. Parsons's request on October 31, 1994, advising her that pursuant to KRS 610.340 he was foreclosed from releasing those records. Ms. Parsons challenges the Fayette County Attorney's denial of her request, arguing that "because Sullivan is deceased . . . [he] has no rights."
We are asked to determine if Mr. DeBolt properly relied on KRS 610.340 in denying Ms. Parson's request. For the reasons set forth below we conclude that his actions were consistent with the Open Records Act.
This office has long recognized that records which are made by, generated for, or received by any agency of the Court of Justice, or by any other court, agency, or officer responsible to the court, are the property of the court and
subject to its control. Thus, court records, in general, enjoy a special status, and are placed under the exclusive jurisdiction of the court. OAG 78-262; OAG 85-9; OAG 87-53; OAG 90-4; 94-ORD-61.
KRS 26A.220 provides:
All public officers, public agencies, or other persons having custody, control or possession of court records by statute or otherwise shall be subject to the direction of the Supreme Court with regard to such records and no such officer, agency, or person shall fail to comply with any rule, regulation, standard, procedure, or order issued by the Chief Justice or his designee.
In Ex Parte Farley, Ky., 570 S.W.2d 617, 624 (1978), the Kentucky Supreme Court observed:
On its face, the Open Records Law, KRS 61.870 - 61-884, incl. (Ch. 273, Acts, of 1976), appears to apply. Whether its provisions conflict with or are harmonious with KRS 26A.200 - 26A.220, incl. (Ch. 22, Acts of 1976 Ex. Sess.), we need not decide, because we are firmly of the opinion that the custody and control of the records generated by the courts in the course of their work are inseparable from the judicial function itself, and are not subject to statutory regulation.
This opinion establishes beyond any doubt that the General Assembly has placed in the hands of the Chief Justice the control and regulation of the records of the court. See also, York v. Commonwealth, Ky.App., 815 S.W.2d 415 (1991).
Juvenile court records are afforded additional protection under KRS 610.340. That statute provides, in part:
(1) Unless a specific provision of KRS Chapters 600 to 645 specifies otherwise, all juvenile court records of any nature generated pursuant to KRS Chapters 600 to 645 by any agency or instrumentality, public or private, shall be deemed to be confidential and shall not be disclosed
except to the child or parent unless ordered by the court for good cause.
(2) The provisions of this section shall not apply to public officers or employes engaged in the prosecution of cases under KRS Chapters 600 to 645 or other portions of the Kentucky Revised Statutes provided that the inspection of the records and the disclosure of the information contained therein is limited to that required in the investigation and the prosecution of the case.
(3) The provisions of this section shall not apply to employes of the cabinet or its designees responsible for any services under KRS Chapters 600 to 645 or to attorneys for parties involved in actions relating to KRS Chapters 600 to 645 or other prosecutions authorized by the Kentucky Revised Statutes provided that the inspection of the records and the disclosure of the information contained therein is limited to that required in the investigation and the representation of the client in the case.
(4) No person shall disclose any record or any information contained therein except as permitted by this section or other specific section of KRS Chapters 600 to 645, or except as permitted by specific order of the court.
To the extent that the Fayette County Attorney may have in her custody juvenile court records relating to the prosecution of cases involving Antonio Orlando Sullivan, she is bound by this confidentiality provision, which is incorporated into the Open Records Act by operation of KRS 61.878(1)(l).
Moreover, the Fayette County Attorney might also have invoked KRS 61.878(1)(h), which permanently excludes from public inspection:
[R]ecords or information compiled and maintained by county attorneys or Commonwealth's attorneys pertaining to criminal investigations or criminal litigation . . . .
Such records are "exempted from the provisions of KRS 61.870 to 61.884 and shall remain exempted after enforcement action, including litigation, is completed or a decision is made to take no action." Thus, any court records relating to Antonio Orlando Sullivan which are in the Fayette County Attorney's possession are forever exempt pursuant to KRS 61.878(1)(h).
It is therefore the decision of this office that the Fayette County Attorney properly denied Ms. Parsons's request. Ms. Parsons may challenge this decision by initiating action in the appropriate circuit court. Pursuant to KRS 61.880(3), the Attorney General shall be notified of any action in circuit court, but shall not be named as a party in that action or in any subsequent proceedings.
AMYE B. MAJORS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Hon. Margaret H. Kannensohn
Fayette County Attorney
163 West Short Street
Lexington, KY 40507
Hon. Raymond F. DeBolt, Jr.
Director, Juvenile Prosecutions
163 West Short Street
Lexington, KY 40507
Ms. Susan Parsons
P.O. Box 5590
Lexington, KY 40555