Quick Takes

Awaiting Supreme Court hearing, ‘random’ change of venue law on hold, putting other cases on hold

By: - June 29, 2023 5:40 am

Kentucky Supreme Court chambers. (Getty Images)

A new law allowing some court cases to be randomly moved across the state is on hold as the Kentucky Supreme Court plans to hear arguments about its constitutionality.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Senate Bill 126 on Aug. 16, after Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd in April requested the state’s highest court to weigh in.

That means challenges to two other new state laws also are on hold — one filed by the “skill-based” games industry challenging a ban on its gambling machines and the other filed by the Kentucky Education Association seeking to continue collecting dues through payroll deductions. 

Kentucky Supreme Court clerk Kelly Stephens wrote to Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office on June 21 that she would not yet randomly pick a new court for the KEA lawsuit until the constitutionality of SB 126 — brought to the Supreme Court by plaintiffs in the ARKK Properties, LLC case, or the “skill-based” games industry case — is resolved. 

“In view of the Court’s Order concerning the statute at issue, I do not plan to undertake a random selection of a new venue pursuant to your notice until the ARKK Properties, LLC case is resolved or upon further order of the Supreme Court or other court of competent jurisdiction,” Stephens wrote. 

SB 126 allows lawsuit participants and the state attorney general as an intervening defendant in cases challenging state laws or decisions to mandate the clerk of the state Supreme Court randomly pick a new circuit court in any of Kentucky’s 120 counties to move the case to. 

Cameron, the Republican candidate for governor, has invoked the new law in at least two cases since it was enacted earlier this year, both times asking the cases to be moved at “random” out of Shepherd’s courtroom. The Franklin County judge has been a target of GOP ire because of past courtroom decisions, with Republicans unsuccessfully backing an electoral opponent against Shepherd last year. 

One of the cases where Cameron has invoked SB 126 was filed by the Kentucky Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, challenging another new law that bars the union from collecting dues through payroll deductions. It has already taken effect because the legislature approved an emergency clause. The other case where SB 126 was invoked involves operators of “skill-based” game machines, often found at convenience stores and gas stations, challenging a state ban on the machines. That law takes effect Thursday, June 29.

Cameron’s office has argued SB 126 is needed to allow lawsuit participants to move cases out of courtrooms where they believe a judge is biased, while defendants in court cases opposing the randomized moves say it amounts to apparent judge-shopping

Cameron and plaintiffs for the “skill-based” game machine industry have until Aug. 4 to file briefs before the state Supreme Court on the matter.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Liam Niemeyer
Liam Niemeyer

Liam covers government and policy in Kentucky and its impacts throughout the Commonwealth for the Kentucky Lantern. He most recently spent four years reporting award-winning stories for WKMS Public Radio in Murray.