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Angela Cooper, Communications Director  |  (502) 654-9227 (call/text)

March 6, 2024

Mark Pence tells news media about his experience in Amnesty Court. Photo credit: Kira Meador for ACLU of Kentucky.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Citizens with outstanding bench warrants for low-level and nonviolent offenses in Jefferson County had an opportunity to resolve their cases without fear of arrest, thanks to the work of a group of government, justice, and community partners.  

Three “amnesty dockets” were offered in Jefferson District Court in February 2024. During the 3-day docket, over 300 cases were cleared, easing the workload of the courts and circuit clerk’s office and giving 174 Kentuckians a fresh start to 2024. Of those who registered for Amnesty Day, 82 percent showed up to court to get their case or cases resolved.

The office of Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell and the ACLU of Kentucky led the effort to facilitate these dockets, along with public officials including the offices of Circuit Court Clerk David Nicholson, Jefferson District Chief Judge Jessica Moore and Chief Court Administrator McKay Chauvin, Sheriff John Aubrey, Commonwealth Attorney Gerina Whethers, Chief Public Defender Leo Smith, the private criminal defense bar and other community partners, including the Louisville Urban League, Louisville Showing Up for Racial Justice, Black Lives Matter Louisville, The Bail Project, and more.  

"The ACLU of Kentucky and our coalition partners worked in tandem with the court system to create this opportunity for amnesty,” said Amber Duke, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky. “We are thrilled to see so many people take advantage of the opportunity, and we looked forward to seeing more efforts like this in the future.”

“It was very fulfilling to preside over the Amnesty Docket this year,” said Judge Mary Jude Wolford, district court judge for Division 15. “I loved seeing happiness and relief on so many faces in my courtroom, and the lightness in people as they left. I would participate in future amnesty efforts without hesitation.”

“I wholeheartedly support future Amnesty Dockets for Jefferson County for those with certain non-violent misdemeanors or class D felony charges. This docket provides relief to those who face barriers to justice due to lack of transportation, childcare, time off from work and more” said David L. Nicholson, Jefferson County Circuit Court Clerk. 

Approximately 174 people were able to clear multiple cases and active bench warrants this year, and there are plans to hold similar dockets in the future. The ACLU and other community partners and donors helped raise funds to help pay restitution for those who could not afford to do so themselves.