Kansas governor signs law cutting off court funding if courts strike down 2014 law

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Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has signed a bill that cuts off funding for the state’s courts if they overturn a 2014 law on the selection of chief district judges.

The new law provides funding for state courts for the next two years, but a nonseverability clause takes away the money if the courts stay or strike down the 2014 law, report the Wall Street Journal Law Blog and a press release by the Brennan Center for Justice.

The 2014 law gives district judges rather than the state supreme court the power to choose chief judges in the district courts. The chief judges have authority over district court budgets, hiring and case assignments. Lawmakers passed the 2014 law after the Kansas Supreme Court found that education funding was inadequate under the Kansas Constitution. A pending suit claims the selection system in the 2014 law violates a Kansas constitutional provision giving the state supreme court “general administrative authority over all courts in this state.”

Brennan Center for Justice counsel Matthew Menendez said in a press release that the new funding law is an “unconstitutional attempt to intimidate Kansas judges.”

“Judges must be free to decide cases based on the law, without fear that their decisions could shut down Kansas’ judicial system,” he said.

First paragraph corrected at 7:30 a.m. to state that the 2014 law affected the selection of chief district judges.

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