Local judges participate in hands-on judicial college

Special to the Mountain Advocate

Circuit Court Judge Thomas L. Jensen (serves Knox and Laurel counties), Family Court Judge Stephen M. Jones (serves Knox and Laurel counties) and Circuit Court Judge Gregory A. Lay (serves Knox and Laurel counties) recently had the opportunity to visit a prison, observe at autopsy, shoot a simulated police firearm and more as part of an education program for the state’s circuit judges. The 2015 Circuit Judges Fall College took place Sept. 27-30 and offered field studies and classroom presentations.

The Division of Judicial Branch Education at the Administrative Office of the Courts worked with the Education Committee of the Kentucky Circuit Judges Association to provide the college.

“This judicial college stands out for the opportunities it offered judges to get hands-on with issues we see in our courtrooms,” said Jefferson Family Court Judge Stephen M. George, who is also president of the Kentucky Circuit Judges Association. “Judges have to sentence people to incarceration all the time, sadly, but most of us had never been inside the walls of a prison before the college. We hear lots of cases with forensic evidence and now we’ve witnessed how those potential clues are processed at the state crime lab. We got to hear directly from men and women in treatment for substance abuse about what they think is effective in helping them recover. The classroom sessions and the experiences the judges had during the field visits served to give us a deeper understanding of the matters over which we preside.”

The classroom portion of the college covered evaluating a child’s competency to testify in court, addressing hearsay issues and using court technology. The judges had a session with members of the Kentucky National Guard Counterdrug Program about substance abuse issues in Kentucky. They also met with Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr., who discussed the study being conducted to measure judicial caseloads across the state and address any imbalances. In another session, the judges received updates on case law based on decisions of the Supreme Court of Kentucky, the Kentucky Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.