District Court Lacked Jurisdiction to Issue IPO Where Respondent was a Juvenile – Published Opinion from Kentucky Court of Appeals


Doe v. Ramey

After an incident on the bus where Doe, a minor, allegedly put T.L.C., a minor’s hand near Doe’s penis while slapping T.L.C.’s hand, telling him to “slap his meat,” Ramey, T.L.C.’s mother, petitioned for an interpersonal protective order (“IPO”). A temporary IPO was granted.

The hearing on the petition took place before the adult session of the district court. At the hearing, the district court warned Doe’s mother that Doe’s testimony could be used in criminal proceedings against Doe and that Doe had the right not to testify. Doe declined to testify. The district court entered an IPO after hearing testimony. The IPO contained no written findings. Doe appealed to the circuit court.

The circuit court affirmed the district court, holding that Doe could be represented by his mother as she was his guardian, that Doe had no right to counsel in a civil proceeding, that the district court has subject matter jurisdiction, that the district court’s warnings were appropriate, and that the IPO was properly granted on the basis of sexual assault. Doe appealed to the Court of Appeals.

First, the Court of Appeals held that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the matter, because the juvenile court was the only court with jurisdiction. It reasoned that jurisdiction over IPO cases is not vested in the circuit court. Where the respondent is a minor, IPO hearings must take place before the juvenile court, because it has exclusive jurisdiction in all cases relating to minors in which jurisdiction is not vested in some other court and in proceedings concerning any child living or found within the county.

Second, the Court of Appeals held that the district court deprived Doe of due process by advising Doe that his testimony in the IPO hearing could be used against him in juvenile and criminal proceedings. It reasoned that testimony in IPO proceedings is only admissible for impeachment in criminal proceedings. This prohibition applies to juvenile proceedings, because the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination has been extended to juvenile proceedings, and therefore, it is appropriate to extend the statutory protections adults receive to juveniles. Therefore, a waiver of Doe’s right to present his own testimony as evidence could not be knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently made where he was given inaccurate advice by the district court.

Third, the Court of Appeals held that written factual findings are required for IPO cases just as they are for DVO cases.

Finally, the Court of Appeals held that it would be a very large inference to assume that Doe forced T.L.C. to touch Doe’s penis through his pants for sexual gratification, which would be required for a finding of sexual assault, where the only testimony was that Doe touched and hit T.L.C.’s hands.


Digested by Nathan R. Hardymon

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