General Division of District Court Has Jurisdiction to Hear IPO Cases Involving Minors; GAL Must Be Appointed to Represent Minors in IPO Cases – Published Opinion from Supreme Court of Ky.

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Smith v. Doe

Jefferson Circuit Court

Questions Presented: Interpersonal Protection Orders. KRS 456.030(6). Minors. Capacity. Consideration of whether the jurisdiction of a petition for an interpersonal protection order involving a minor should be in the juvenile division of the district court; also, whether minors have the capacity to represent themselves in the proceeding or whether they may be represented by a parent or legal guardian.

The two issues decided by the Supreme Court of Kentucky in this case were (1) whether the juvenile division of District Court has exclusive jurisdiction over IPO cases involving a minor petitioner and/or respondent; and (2) whether an unrepresented minor that is a petitioner or respondent to an IPO action must be appointed counsel.

The Supreme Court held that the juvenile division of District Court does not have exclusive jurisdiction over IPO cases involving a minor party and that any IPO hearing involving a minor party must be made confidential. KRS 456.030 gives concurrent jurisdiction for IPO cases to the District and Circuit Courts, without exception for cases involving minors. The omission is significant when considering that KRS 456.050 shows that the General Assembly took into consideration that there would be IPO cases involving minors when it made a factor the consideration of whether the parties attend the same school. If the General Assembly wanted to give the juvenile division exclusive jurisdiction, it would have done so. Furthermore, KRS 610.010 giving exclusive jurisdiction to the juvenile division is unconvincing, because IPO cases are not public offenses, which is what is covered by KRS 610.010. However, all IPO hearings involving minors must be made confidential, regardless of whether the case proceeds in District Court or Circuit Court and regardless of whether a confidential hearing is requested by one of the parties.

The Supreme Court held that unrepresented minors to an IPO action must have a GAL appointed to represent them. CR 17.03 requires actions against minors to be defended by the minor’s guardian or committee, and if none are willing to act, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem. “Guardian” does not mean “parent.” The Court has previously used KRS 387.010’s definition of guardian, which distinguishes between a parent and a guardian. Furthermore, in Rice v. Floyd, 768 S.W.2d 57 (Ky. 1989), the Court stated that “guardian” means a legally appointed guardian. It also notes that an incompetent person cannot be sued and an attorney-in-fact cannot defend an action on behalf of an incompetent. Defense must be completed by a legally appointed guardian or committee. CR 17.03 mandates the appointment of a GAL for an unrepresented minor party to an IPO case.

Digested by Nathan R. Hardymon

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