The Kentucky Court of Appeals was the only appellate Court in Kentucky before the establishment of the Kentucky Supreme Court after a constitutional amendment in 1975. The Kentucky Court of Appeals is now Kentucky’s intermediate appellate court. The Supreme Court of Kentucky is the Court of last resort and final interpreter of state law in Kentucky. The Supreme Court is composed of seven Justices who are elected from the seven appellate districts. Elected Justices serves for a period of eight years. The Justices of the Supreme Court shall elect one of their members to serve as Chief Justice for a term of four years.
According to Section 10, subsection 2(a)(b) of the Kentucky Constitution, the Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction to issue all writs necessary in aid of its appellate jurisdiction. The Justices, as a panel, hear appeals of decisions from the lower courts and issue decisions or “opinions” on cases. Cases involving the death penalty, life imprisonment or imprisonment for twenty years or more go directly from the circuit court level, where the cases are tried, to the Supreme Court for review as a matter of right. After a decision by the Kentucky Supreme Court, a case can only be appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is also responsible for establishing rules of practice and procedures for the Court of Justice, which includes the conduct of Judges and attorneys. The Supreme Court receives administrative support from the Administrative Office of the Courts.