Legislation & Lobbying

Kansas legislature backs off in separation-of-powers faceoff with state supreme court

The Kansas legislature has backed off in a separation-of-powers showdown with the state supreme court, repealing a section of an earlier statute that would have taken away the court’s power to appoint chief judges in districts around the state, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports.

On Thursday the legislature passed a fix after the state supreme court ruled that the lawmakers had usurped the court’s authority. The repealed legislation had called for direct election of chief judges by the judges of each district, rather than have them picked by the Supreme Court.

The court’s ruling against the legislative measure came in a suit filed last February by District Judge Larry Solomon, of the 30th Judicial District, claiming that it was unconstitutional. Lawmakers passed additional legislation saying that if the provision was struck down by the courts, it would not fund them. The high court struck it down and an injunction has kept the court funded through next month, giving the legislature time to make the fix.

Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, said, “The financial signal that this body sent was clear, and that is: Regardless of our opinion of any specific case or any specific member of the judicial branch, we funded the courts.”

Only one senator, Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, voted against the repeal, saying she believes judges should be held to a higher standard.

“I firmly believe Kansans deserve rule of law,” Baumgardner said.

The two branches of government have had ongoing tensions since widespread measures to reduce taxes under the Republican Gov. Sam Brownback included significant funding problems for some school systems, the Wichita Eagle reports.

The Supreme Court ruled last year that the legislature must remedy uneven funding among school districts, and in November expressed its agitation with the legislature over its latest proposal, the Kansas City Star reports.

Related articles:

ABAJournal.com: “Legislation advances to keep Kansas courts open”

ABAJournal: “Kansas supremes strike down law on chief judge appointments; is court funding in danger?”

ABAJournal.com: “Kansas Supreme Court turns down recusal request in case that could shut down the courts”

ABAJournal.com: “Kansas governor signs law cutting off court funding if courts strike down 2014 law”

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