By Dave Andrusko
To what appears to be the embarrassment of his colleagues, Jeff Taylor, the chief judge of the Kentucky Court of Appeals, has asked state police to investigate how a confidential abortion ruling about minors made its way into a story that appeared in January in the Louisville Courier-Journal–and whether criminal laws were broken in the process.
The newspaper, citing the state’s reporter shield law, which protects the identity of anonymous sources, has refused to disclose its source.
The secret 2-1 decision makes it possible for minor girls from outside the state to come to Kentucky to ask local judges for permission to abort without their parents’ consent. Small wonder Judge Taylor wanted this egregious violation of parental rights kept quiet.
There are many more interesting aspects to Taylor’s intemperate demands. For starters, although the measure did not pass this session, the Kentucky Right to Life Association persuaded a state lawmaker to sponsor legislation that would have barred girls in other states from coming to Kentucky for bypass hearings. This doubtless irked Taylor.
Then there is the issue of Taylor rationale for asking state police special investigations unit to investigate. “Several Court of Appeals judges said that Taylor was concerned about the leak in part because he feared the parents of the girl, who was from Indiana, might be able to identify her from her initials, which were not published in the newspaper’s story,” the Courier Journal reported. Note that girl’s initials were not in the story, let alone her name.
Then there are the other judges. According to the newspaper, they either thought the issue had been resolved internally, or (as Judge Denise Clayton of Louisville said in an interview) “My view, frankly, was that I didn’t think a criminal investigation was warranted.”
Then there is the humiliation suffered by the judge whose opinion the appeals court reversed. “The Court of Appeals had previously summoned [Jefferson District Judge David]Bowles and the lawyers involved in the case to a hearing at which they were forced to answer under oath whether they had released a copy of the opinion,” according to several judges. (Bowles did not return messages, asking for a comment.)
And then there is the substance of the decision, which is, if you think about it, shocking. Not only bypassing parental rights, but opening the floodgates for minor girls to come in for secret abortions.
Louisville lawyer Sheryl Snyder represents Amelia Adams, the attorney who won the appeal. She told the Courier that as long as the girl remained anonymous there was no reason to keep the substance of the opinion secret. (She wants teenagers and other Kentucky judges to know they can not only go behind their parents’ back but leave the state to abort.)
“It seems to me that it contained important public information — that girls from other states have the right to come to Kentucky” for the hearings, Snyder told the Courier.
“If not for the newspaper’s story, Snyder and some judges said, other district court judges would never have known how the Court of Appeals ruled.”