By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press
FRANKFORT - Part of a nepotism law that prohibits people from serving on school boards if they have relatives employed by the school system is unconstitutional, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled Friday.
The court found that the law covers aunts and uncles but not nieces and nephews. That violates a constitutional guarantee of "equal protection" under the law, a three-judge panel said.
The decision upheld a ruling from Garrard County, where Greg Crutchfield successfully fought an attempt by the attorney general's office to remove him from the school board because his uncle was employed as a bus driver.
Crutchfield was elected in November 2000. Attorney General Ben Chandler's office filed suit in March 2001 to remove him.
The law states that no one with a "relative" working in the school district can serve on its board of education. It defines relative as father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, son, daughter, aunt, uncle, son-in-law or daughter-in-law.
Crutchfield claimed the definition was arbitrary because he would not be ineligible if the bus driver were his niece or nephew, rather than his uncle. The appeals court agreed.
"We are unable to discern the rational basis for the difference in treatment or classification of aunt/uncle and niece/nephew" in the statute, the court said in an opinion by Judge Matthew Baker of Bowling Green.
Rather than strike down the entire statute, the court struck only the references to aunt and uncle.
The Kentucky School Boards Association welcomed the ruling.
"We have thought since the (law) was passed that there was a tremendous incongruity," association spokesman Brad Hughes said.
"We hope it will allow some good folks on school boards to stay on school boards, especially in your smaller communities and smaller independent districts," he said.
In other cases, the court:
Upheld a jury's order in Whitley County for an insurance company to pay $350,000 to a couple whose three children were killed in a highway crash in 1996.
The award against Globe American Casualty Co. was for bad faith and unfair claims practices. The company denied a claim by George and Carolyn Bowman for underinsured-motorist payments. Globe relented 11/2 years after litigation began.
Upheld a Montgomery County judge's suppression of statements made by a Spanish-speaking suspect because an untrained interpreter gave him an unclear explanation of his constitutional rights.
The case involved Jose Antonio Orazco Sanchez. A court-appointed interpreter reviewing a record of Orazco Sanchez's interrogation found 48 instances in which the interpreter used by the police and sheriff added or omitted information, injected her opinion, changed or distorted what was said.
An excerpt from the transcript: "You have the right to consult any attorney, uh, before to make any conversation or any um, uh ... court that's going to involve it, uh, or to question, uh, any question."
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