The Kentucky Court of Justice promotes and embraces diversity, equity and inclusion. We believe employing individuals with different viewpoints, skills, backgrounds and interests enhances public confidence in the court system and creates a positive work environment.
The KCOJ is an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer and hires without regard to race, national origin, color, religion, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran’s status, political affiliation or any other characteristic protected by law.
One of our priorities is to recruit and retain a workforce that represents the population it serves. To help achieve this, the KCOJ recruits students and graduates from many of our state universities, including the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Kentucky State University and Eastern Kentucky University, and organizations such as the Central Kentucky Job Club.
The KCOJ also prepares court employees to be culturally competent by promoting understanding and respect for different values and beliefs. These educational opportunities focus on recognizing implicit bias, building cultural awareness, fostering inclusion and belonging, addressing microaggressions, and managing generational differences within the workplace.
Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives
The KCOJ has long recognized the presence of racial and ethnic disparities within the court system and has endeavored to address those disparities over the past decade. Since 2014, targeted efforts have resulted in remarkable improvements for the individuals and families who have come into contact with the courts. Below are some of the initiatives designed to promote diversity and inclusion in the Kentucky court system.
Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities
The KCOJ wants to share its journey to culture change with local court jurisdictions and other organizations that can benefit from its experiences. With that in mind, the Department of Family & Juvenile Services has created a resource titled A Guide for Identifying, Addressing and Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities, which documents the 4-step model being used to reduce disparities within the court system. The guide explains how to identify disparities, construct strategies to address them, institutionalize effective changes and reevaluate progress for continuous quality improvement.
Diversity & Inclusion Program
The AOC created its first formal AOC Diversity & Inclusion Program in 2019 with the hiring of a full-time coordinator. The program oversees initiatives to establish a more inclusive work environment, train staff to become more culturally competent, and recruit talent that reflects the diverse populations the court system serves.
One of these efforts was a 2021 article for the National Center for State Courts titled A Court System’s Guide to Increasing Diversity and Fostering Inclusion. The article shares how the AOC is increasing its level of diversity and inclusion by creating new policies, addressing racial and ethnic disparities, and building relationships with predominately minority organizations within the community. Although the article was written with state courts in mind, many of the steps it describes can be applied to any organization.
Statewide Department Equity Committee
The Administrative Office of the Courts has established a Statewide Department Equity Committee for the departments whose programs operate in all 120 counties: Family & Juvenile Services, Pretrial Services and Specialty Courts. The Equity Committee meets quarterly to analyze data, determine areas of racial disparity, discuss current strategies the departments are implementing and consider areas of improvement.
Racial Fairness Commission & Listening Sessions
The Chief Justice’s Racial Fairness Commission was formed in Jefferson County in 2001 to address complaints of unfairness from Louisville’s African American community regarding jury selection, setting bail, sentencing and probation. The commission has issued four reports: Sentencing, Bail, Jury Selection and Courtroom Environment (Fairness and Access).
The commission conducted surveys and focus groups, which found a generally favorable perception of the judicial system in Kentucky’s largest urban court. However, African Americans in Louisville have a less favorable impression of the courts and focus groups revealed that they believe both race and financial status impact how parties are treated.
After the release of the Courtroom Environment report, the Kentucky Court of Justice implemented some of the commission’s recommendations, including implicit bias and cultural competency trainings for judges, circuit court clerks and court personnel.
Following the lead of the National Center for State Courts and building on community conversations started by the Racial Fairness Commission, the KCOJ held a Court Talks listening session in Jefferson County in 2019. The event was held to educate the public about the different roles of participants in the court and justice systems, and to listen to community concerns and answer questions about experiences with and perceptions of the courts in Jefferson County.
Annual Black History Month Celebration
It is important to celebrate an organization’s culture and each year the KCOJ recognizes Black History Month by highlighting the accomplishments and achievements of the African American community. You can watch the KCOJ’s 2021 Black History Month Celebration here.