The Supreme Court of Kentucky is the court of last resort and the final interpreter of state law. It consists of seven justices who are elected from the seven appellate districts and serve eight-year terms. The Chief Justice of the Commonwealth is chosen by his or her colleagues and serves a term of four years. The justices, as a panel, hear appeals of decisions from the lower courts and issue decisions or "opinions" on cases.
A case, which comes before the Supreme Court, is not retried. Attorneys with written briefs and oral arguments addressing the legal issues, which the Court must decide, present the case to the Supreme Court. Cases involving the death penalty, life imprisonment or imprisonment for twenty years or more go directly from the circuit court level, where the cases are tried, to the Supreme Court for review as a matter of right. The Supreme Court is also responsible for establishing rules of practice and procedures for the Court of Justice, which includes the conduct of judges and attorneys.