Gavel Grab

New Lawsuit Challenges Law That Could Defund KS Judiciary

Kansas_quarter,_reverse_side,_2005A lawsuit was filed in Kansas by four district court judges to challenge a budget statute provision that their lawyers said threatens to defund the entire state judiciary. On the same day, Gov. Sam Brownback said Kansas court financing wasn’t in jeopardy.

This week, Shawnee County Judge Larry Hendricks struck down as unconstitutional a 2014 statute taking away from the state Supreme Court the authority to pick chief district judges (see Gavel Grab). As a result, questions have been raised about a possible shutdown of the courts because because a separate law passed by the legislature called for defunding of the entire state court system if the chief judge-appointment provision was struck down by a court.

An Atlantic magazine article was headlined, “The Court Case That Could Shut Down Kansas’s Courts: A GOP law on judicial appointments has been thrown out, and now it’s the judiciary itself that hangs in the balance.” The Kansas City Star reported, “Kansas court financing isn’t in jeopardy, Gov. Sam Brownback says.”

Meanwhile the Brennan Center for Justice, a Justice at Stake partner organization, said its counsel and other lawyers filed the lawsuit on behalf of four district court judges. “The defunding provision would bring about a constitutional crisis,” said Matthew Menendez, Counsel at the Brennan Center. “Without funding, Kansas courts would be forced to close and would not be able to uphold their constitutional duty to try and hear cases.”

The Shawnee County court put its initial order on hold this week so that an appeal can be considered.

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