A Lawrence Journal-World editorial, titled “Crisis looms,” posed that question after the state’s highest court struck down on Dec. 23 a statute removing the court’s authority to appoint chief district judges. A separate state law, temporarily on hold, dictates that if the first one were voided, then the entire state court system shall be defunded.
“Hopefully, the legislators who championed this bill last session will bring a different attitude to Topeka in January and work to ease the growing animosity of the legislative and executive branches toward the state court system,” the editorial said. “Unfortunately, such a change of heart is not guaranteed or, perhaps, even likely. Instead, many observers expect lawmakers to push for new judicial selection laws and perhaps other measures aimed at the courts.” The editorial concluded:
“The law that was struck down … was an attack on the separation of powers that is essential to the government of the state. Tying that law to the judicial branch’s budget was a legislative power play that failed. Pressing that case will only push the state toward a constitutional crisis that benefits no one. Approving funding for the judicial branch — without further political games — should be at the top of the Legislature’s agenda when it convenes in January.”
In the Garden City Telegram, an editorial accused Gov. Sam Brownback of attempting a “power grab” in order to take control of the judicial branch. A Wichita Eagle editorial, meanwhile, was headlined, “Provide needed resources to judicial branch.”