Kentucky Constable Association challenges constitutionality of new law

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(Via press release from attorney Anna Whites)

Today the Kentucky Constable Association filed suit in Bullitt County Circuit Court seeking an injunction against enforcement of a new law that blocks recently elected Constables from discharging their duties. (Complaint attached at end of article.)

Bullitt County Constable Larry Watkins, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said the law, House Bill 239, prevents constables from serving the citizens who elected them. “We are the peace officers you see when you pick up your kids at school, attend church on Sunday, or drive in a funeral processions. We are here to assist the police and sheriffs in public protection, but this law ties our hands. My voters are very unhappy about that, so the Association and I are stepping up to challenge it.”

The Kentucky Constitution requires that constables “shall be elected in each county” and “shall enter upon the discharge of the duties of their office” after the election (Kentucky Constitution Section 99).

The new law purports to require additional training for constables but actually ensures that training will never be provided, according to the Verified Petition filed in the case. “Citizens elected dozens of new constables across the Commonwealth but this law only provides seats in training for two each session, or four per year,” says Anna Whites, attorney for the Association. “This effectively eliminates a Constitutional Office. The same could happen to Sheriffs, jailers or coroners. More training is a good goal, but this law does not provide it; instead it blocks access to training as a way to eliminate the office of constable. It is not only a badly written law, it is unconstitutional.”

The suit asserts that most newly elected constables will never be offered seats in any of the newly required training (Verified Petition, p. 10), while nullifying the votes of all Kentucky citizens who elected county constables (Verified Petition, p. 14).  In addition, the new law requires any constable to pay for the $15,000 three-month-long training out of their own pocket, making training financially impossible for most of the newly elected officials.

The constables seek a Declaration of Rights safeguarding the public’s right to elect its chosen peace offices and an injunction to prevent the implementation or enforcement of HB 239.

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The editorial board of Forward Kentucky. Articles under this author name have been written, edited, and approved by a number of the contributors on this site, as well as the publisher.

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