Kentucky’s bankruptcy court has been unable to view or review a transcript of the depositions of five Kentucky judges during a lawsuit filed by former plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the state, according to court documents obtained by Newsweek.
In February, Kentucky’s Supreme Court denied the state’s request to compel Kentucky’s state attorney general to make those depositions public.
The state attorney, Greg Stumbo, said the court could not make the requested transcripts public.
“If we did that, it would be an admission of guilt,” Stumbo said in an interview.
“We are very serious about this and we are not going to let this go to waste.”
The court was ordered to make the court records public on Thursday, two days after the state filed its request to force Kentucky’s attorney general and the state court clerk to make that request public.
Kentucky’s request for access to the court transcript was based on the claim that those depositor depositions were not public records and therefore not subject to public disclosure under Kentucky law.
A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 7.
A spokeswoman for Kentucky’s Attorney General’s office said Thursday that the office would not comment on pending litigation.
“Kentucky is a very secretive and closed state, and it is not possible for the court to access the records in question,” said spokeswoman Lisa Smith.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals is currently considering the appeal, according in a news release from the state attorney’s office.
A spokesperson for the Kentucky Court Clerk’s office declined to comment.
The case in the Kentucky Supreme Court is currently in the trial court.
The four plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that the state violated the Kentucky Constitution by requiring them to sign nondisclosure agreements that prohibited them from testifying against former Chief Justice and current Supreme Court Chief Justice John S. Clements, a former federal judge, and former state Supreme Court Judge Daniel R. McPherson.
The court documents also allege that former state Circuit Judge Thomas W. Padden and former Kentucky Circuit Judge John B. Brown, both former judges, participated in a “conspiracy” to obstruct justice in the case.
“The court’s refusal to allow the Court to see or hear the depositor deposition testimony is a blatant violation of the Constitution and its public interest in openness,” said Mark W. O’Brien, senior staff attorney at the Institute for Justice, which filed the lawsuit.
“This court has a responsibility to protect the public from these kinds of blatant abuses by the courts.”
The lawsuit seeks an order for the state to release all records related to the case and other cases that the court may have to hear.
“For the state not to do its job, it is unconscionable,” said Christopher Kaczynski, director of litigation for the Institute on Governmental Oversight, which brought the case for the plaintiffs.
“When the courts are not open and transparent, the public has no choice but to trust the government.”
The state of Kentucky was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.
The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, which represented the plaintiffs in court.