Politics

Next week, Kentucky’s Supreme Court will hear high-profile legal challenges dealing with the constitutionality of new laws, whether jailers should be held liable when an inmate dies of a drug overdose, and who appears on a ballot after a candidate dies.

Medical Review Panels

The state’s high court will weigh in on the legality of Kentucky’s medical review panel law, which passed during last year’s General Assembly. It requires medical malpractice lawsuits to be approved by a three-person panel before the cases can be heard by a court.

Supporters of the measure say it would help cut back on frivolous lawsuits. Opponents who sued to strike down the new law say it limits citizens’ access to the courts.

A lower court briefly blocked the law last fall but the state court of appeals allowed it to proceed while it’s being considered by the Supreme Court.

Right To Work

A challenge to Kentucky’s new “right-to-work” law will also be heard. The measure bars unionized companies from requiring workers to pay union dues — a provision that supporters say makes the state more attractive to businesses.

Labor unions sued over the new law, which passed in early 2017, saying that they can’t be forced to represent and provide benefits to workers who don’t pay dues.

A lower court threw out the case earlier this year, and union organizations appealed the decision.

Overdoses In Jail

The court will hear arguments over whether jail officials in Russell County should be held liable for the death of a prisoner who died of drug overdose in her detox cell.

According to the Clinton County News, Peggy McWhorter died in 2011 while serving time for a DUI conviction. A lawsuit from the administrator of McWhorter’s estate alleges that jail officials didn’t properly monitor her or check to see if she was on drugs before she was admitted.

Who Appears On The Ballot After A Candidate Dies?

Danny Alvarez was the top vote-getter in a four-way primary election for Jefferson County District Judge, but died of a heart attack the day after the contest.

The top two finishers normally appear on the November ballot for the non-partisan election, but the State Board of Elections ruled that after Alvarez’s death, only the second-place finisher — Tanisha Ann Hickerson — would appear.

Third-place finisher Karen Faulkner — who had 17 fewer votes than Hickerson — sued to appear on the ballot. A lower court ruled that she should replace Alvarez’ name on the ballot, but the state Supreme Court will make the final ruling.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.