TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Local News

November 15, 2007

Judge rules Ballou exceeded authority

By Fred Petke / Staff Writer

Whitley District Judge Dan Ballou was ordered to stop assigning social workers to certain cases in juvenile court.

According to documents provided to the Times-Tribune, an order from Whitley Circuit Judge Paul Braden dated Nov. 2 overturned an order in the juvenile case and ordered Ballou not to enter future orders interfering with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

According to Braden’s order, a petition seeking circuit court review was filed on Oct. 10, claiming Ballou appointed a specific social worker to provide services to a certain family. The juvenile case in question was pending in Ballou’s district courtroom.

On Nov. 2, Braden ruled that Ballou exceeded his authority and “acted without jurisdiction when he assigned a particular social worker to a case before him or otherwise attempted to dictate how the Cabinet carries out its duties.”

The civil case was sealed by court order, since it involved a juvenile court matter. All juvenile cases are sealed and confidential.

Stephen Spurlock, an attorney for the cabinet in London, declined to comment on the matter due to the “Highly confidential” matter of juvenile cases. Ballou did not return a message seeking comment.

Braden wrote that the cabinet falls under the executive branch of state government while Ballou is part of the judicial branch. The Kentucky Constitution prohibits one branch from using any power or authority from another branch.

“This court is unaware of any provision of Kentucky’s constitution or any statute granting the judiciary jurisdiction to interfere with the manner in which the Cabinet carries out its duties,” Braden wrote. “In the absence of a specific authority or jurisdiction, a court impermissibly exercises executive authority if it does so. Such action violates the separation of powers doctrine, which must be strictly construed.”

Ballou has been critical of the Cabinet in recent months. In May, Ballou issued an order for the Cabinet to stop placing foster children in a certain home in Whitley County where a registered sex offender allegedly roamed free. Published reports quoted Ballou’s order calling child protection workers “reckless and negligent” for allowing the situation to continue.

Last week, Ballou was easily elected to become Whitley and McCreary counties’ other circuit judge. Ballou is expected to be sworn in later this month. Ballou will serve the remaining seven years of Jerry Winchester’s term. Winchester decided to retire and become a senior judge this summer.

The governor will appoint an interim district judge until a special election can take place in November 2008.



Fred Petke can be reached at

fpetke@thetimestribune.com.

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