October 7, 1996

In re: William A. Searcy/Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney 55th Judicial District

Open Records Decision

This matter comes to the Attorney General on appeal from the Commonwealth's Attorney for the 55th Judicial District's partial denial of William A. Searcy's August 26, 1996, request for various records relating to his indictment and the indictment of Deborah Knapp. On September 5, 1996, Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Mann responded to Mr. Searcy's request, providing him with a copy of his grand jury tape and indictment, and Ms. Knapp's indictments, but denying his request for the grand jury transcript in her case. From this decision, Mr. Searcy appeals.

The question presented in this appeal is whether the Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney violated provisions of the Open Records Act in denying that portion of Mr. Searcy's request relating to the grand jury transcript in the case against Deborah Knapp. For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that the Commonwealth's Attorney did not violate the Act.

Our research discloses no prior open records decisions on this issue. [1] Presumably, this is because the issue has generated no controversy. The secrecy of grand jury proceeding is a well-entrenched principle in American jurisprudence. Thus, RCr 5.24(1) provides:

Subject to the right of a person indicted to procure a transcript or recording as provided by Rule 5.16(3), and subject to the authority of the court at any time to direct otherwise, all persons present during any part of the proceedings of a grand jury shall keep its proceedings and the testimony given before it secret, except that counsel may divulge such information as may be necessary in preparing the case for trial or other disposition.

(Emphasis added.) Violation of this provision by disclosure of grand jury proceeding is punishable as a contempt of court. RCr 5.24(3). For this reason, the Commonwealth's Attorney properly denied Mr. Searcy's request for the transcript of the grand jury proceedings against Ms. Knapp.

A party aggrieved by this decision may appeal it by initiating action in the appropriate circuit court pursuant to KRS 61.880(5) and KRS 61.882. Pursuant to KRS 61.880(3), the Attorney General should be notified of any action in circuit court, but should not be named as a party in that action or in any subsequent proceeding.

A. B. Chandler III

Attorney General

Amye L. Bensenhaver

Assistant Attorney General


Distributed to:

Michael A. Mann

Bullitt Commonwealth's Attorney

55th Judicial District

P. O. B ox 337

Shepherdsville KY 40165

William A. Searcy #81179

Luther Luckett Correctional Complex

Box 6

LaGrange KY 40031


[1] We have, however, on more than one occasion dealt with the issue of the indicted person's right to procure a transcript of the grand jury proceedings against him. See e.g., 93-ORD-137; 96-ORD-106.