Pilot program opens Fayette Family Court

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) — For the first time ever, anyone who wants to see family court proceedings in Fayette County can.

While typically closed, the court is open right now to see if it would be beneficial to open some cases to the public.

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More transparent or adding pain to kids already suffering trauma?

That’s what the pilot study is trying to figure out in Kentucky’s family courts.

Lawmakers asked the state Supreme Court in 2016 to start studying the impact of open courts.

Several other counties, including Jefferson, have already tried it.

Now, it’s Fayette’s turn opening some family court proceedings for a month.

The Administrative Office of the Courts is measuring the results by asking everyone who attends to do a survey.

“We had some people who thought having the courts open resulted in better accountability but then on the same survey sometimes they would say that having it open had no positive impact,” says Nathan Goins, the Fayette Family Court program liaison with the AOC.

It’s controversial.

People on one side feel opening the court will show the judicial system has nothing to hide.

Others fear opening cases could hurt a child.

Not all cases will be open only those involving child dependency, neglect and abuse, and parental rights but not sexual abuse cases.

Family Court Judge Traci Brislin says she’s an advocate for open proceedings.

“I think that being transparent is really important. The question has always been how do we do that while also being sensitive to children and families but particularly children,” says Judge Brislin.

A big concern is that a child’s family issues might be blasted onto social media.

“They’re able to keep this part of their life away from their peers which that part of that life I mean that maybe their family life might be falling apart or that their parents may be engaging in something unsavory that’s really embarrassing to them,” says Brislin.

She says that’s the last thing anyone would want but she also understands the public’s desire to not want anything behind closed doors.

“That’s the whole point of this is that it’s a pilot to see if we can balance those interests so that the public can come in and see all of that and also respecting the dignity of these families and if we can find a way to balance that it could be a very good thing,” says Brislin.

All findings of the study will be turned over to the General Assembly.

“Tt will ultimately be their decision because laws will need to be changed if courts are open,” says Goins.

The AOC’s report is due september first.

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