Kentucky Court of Appeals denies Cabinet’s writ of prohibition, holding Cabinet has an adequate remedy by appeal

Cabinet for Health and Family Services v. Honorable Kenneth Harold Goff II, Judge, Breckinridge Circuit Court, et al, Case No. 2022-CA-001059

Relatives filed custody and adoption actions related to their 3-year-old cousin, S.M.H., in Breckinridge Circuit Court. S.M.H. had been in the custody of the Cabinet nearly all her life, after she was born and tested positive for illicit substances and Hepatitis C in November 2019. One year after her birth, the Cabinet filed a DNA petition in Jefferson Family Court, which remains active and pending. In June 2022, Relatives filed a petition for adoption in Breckinridge Circuit Court, and in July 2022, Relatives filed a petition for custody in Breckinridge Circuit Court. The Cabinet filed motions to dismiss arguing Breckinridge Circuit Court lacked particular case jurisdiction and that Relatives lacked standing to bring the lawsuits. The motions were scheduled for hearing on November 28, 2022.

The Cabinet filed for a writ of prohibition and a motion for immediate relief on September 6, 2022. Immediate relief was denied for lack of irreparable injury warranting extraordinary relief resulting from the Circuit Court’s conducting a hearing, and a three-judge panel was appointed for consideration on the merits.

The Cabinet argued that it was entitled to a writ because the Circuit Court was acting or about to act erroneously, there was no adequate remedy by appeal, and the Cabinet would suffer irreparable harm if the hearing was held in the Circuit Court.

The Court of Appeals denied the Cabinet’s writ of prohibition because the Cabinet had an adequate remedy by appeal. A hearing would be conducted in the Circuit Court to determine the merit of the Cabinet’s motions to dismiss the custody and adoption actions. The Court of Appeals stated that such a hearing is itself a forum in which the Cabinet could prove to the Circuit Court that the underlying actions should be dismissed. After the entry of a final order in the case, the Cabinet could then file a direct appeal.

Carter Anderson

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