Date set for Supreme Court hearing of UK, Kernel lawsuit

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Sarah Michels

After a four-year legal battle, lawsuit between UK and the Kentucky Kernel will be heard by the Kentucky Supreme Court. 

The lawsuit, Kernel Press v. University of Kentucky, was originally filed against the student newspaper in August 2016.

The case will be heard by a panel of judges on Oct. 23 at 9:30 a.m., according to the Kentucky Kernel’s attorney. 

The original lawsuit was filed when the Kentucky Kernel requested documents regarding a Title IX investigation into UK professor James Harwood under the Open Records Act. Harwood, who has since been fired, was allegedly involved in sexual misconduct with two students. UK declined to provide them.

In January 2017, the Fayette County Circuit Court ruled in favor of UK, citing concerns over student privacy. The judge, Thomas Clark, cited the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which requires students’ permission for release of their educational records, as justification for not having to provide the documents to the Kernel. 

After the 2017 decision, the Kernel appealed the case to Kentucky’s Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of the Kernel in May of 2019, saying that UK did not make “any attempt to comply with the Open Records Act” which is contrary to the purpose of the law, rooted in transparency. This meant that UK would have to release the documents regarding the Harwood case to the newspaper, with the appropriate redactions to protect students’ privacy. 

After that Court of Appeals decision, UK motioned for discretionary review, which was granted by the Supreme Court in December of 2019. 

The hearing will have in-person and virtual options.