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Archive for Saturday, September 13, 1997

COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW OF COURT SYSTEM ANNOUNCED

September 13, 1997

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A handful of Lawrence residents have been asked to help in a survey of the state's court system.

Kansas University law school Dean Michael Hoeflich and his counterpart at Washburn University in Topeka will be compiling information in a survey of what works and what doesn't in the Kansas court system.

Chief Justice Kay McFarland announced Friday creation of a 46-member Kansas Justice Commission to undertake a comprehensive review of the state's judicial system. The study is the first of its kind since 1974. Former Gov. Robert F. Bennett of Prairie Village and Wichita stockbroker Jill Docking will serve as co-chairs. Law school deans Hoeflich and James Concannon of Washburn will serve as co-reporters.

The law deans will help coordinate the compilation of research on the massive project, and will work on the draft of the report that goes to the committee.

"This is actually part of a national, broader effort that the American Bar Assn. has been encouraging states to go out to its citizens to seek an opinion as to how the justice system is working," Hoeflich said. "They want to see where good things are happening, where they see problems."

Telephone and mail-in surveys will be used to gather comments statewide.

"I think we'll get a pretty good idea of what the people of Kansas are interested in and from there, we'll find out what reforms are appropriate and make recommendations from there," Hoeflich said.

Lawrence residents who are members of the commission are Police Chief Ron Olin, Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, and attorneys John Brand Jr. and John Solbach.

"The justice system is continually being evaluated through the practical application of the justice system," Solbach said. "It's utilized by the citizens and their attorneys as decisions are being made at the District Court level, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court level.

"But it's not always looked at in a comprehensive way, apparently as the chief justice now wants," said Solbach, a former Kansas House of Representatives member and chairman of the House's judiciary committee from 1991 to January 1993.

Bennett, who was governor from 1975 to 1979 and continues to practice law, said the commission would look at all aspects of the court system.

``Today, even with all the litigation going on, people still don't have the accessibility to the courts they should have,'' he said.

There is a demand for more court resources, and such questions need answering as whether every county must have an assigned judge and whether the nonpartisan judge selection system is the best way to pick the state's judges, he said.

``Basically, the funding of the courts is a major concern,'' Bennett said.

He said the commission has a general goal of developing recommendations before the close of the 1999 legislative session, but if its work takes longer that will not be a concern.

McFarland said the group will ``take a long, hard look at the courts and conduct a series of regional public meetings for recording the concerns of our citizens about the court system.''

The review, the first one done since the state court system was consolidated under the Supreme Court's jurisdiction and the Court of Appeals was re-established in 1974, is being called the Kansas Justice Initiative.

Commission members were named by the Supreme Court, Gov. Bill Graves, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Emert of Independence and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Carmody of Overland Park.

The commission will hold its organizational meeting Sept. 29 in Topeka, then conduct congressional district meetings in November at locations to be decided.

Friday's announcement included naming 42 of the commission's 46 members. The remaining four will be named later.

Appointees in addition to Bennett, Docking, Hoeflich and Concannon are:

By Graves -- Olin; Bruce Buchanan, Hutchinson newspaper executive; Jeff Burkhead, Liberal newspaper publisher; J. Sanford Bushman, Leavenworth accountant; Jane A. Devore, Coffeyville leadership program director; Michael C. Helbert, Emporia attorney; Jerry G. Larson, Larned attorney; David McElreath, Topeka, Washburn criminal justice professor; Robert C. Muirhead, Scott City; Juanita L. Sanchez, Dodge City; Marilyn Scafe, Topeka, chairwoman of the Kansas Parole Board; Kathleen Sloan, Olathe District Court trustee, and Delmar A. White, Topeka Baptist minister.

By the Supreme Court -- Ballard; Brand; Arden Bradshaw, Wichita attorney; R.A. Edwards, Hutchinson banker; Gloria Flentje, Wichita attorney; Judge Stephen D. Hill, Paola; John Jurcyk, Kansas City, Kan., attorney; Judge Steven Leben, Olathe; Robert Smith, Hays businessman; Stan Stauffer, retired Topeka media executive; Judge Nelson Toburen, Pittsburg; Nick Tomasic, Wyandotte County district attorney, and David Waxse, Overland Park attorney.

By Emert -- Judy Bengtson, Junction City; Emerson Lynn Jr., Iola publisher; Jeffrey Russell, Topeka; Sen. Greta Goodwin, D-Winfield; John A. Potucek II, Wellington attorney, and Judge J. Michael Smith, Winfield.

By Carmody -- Solbach; Bob Boyd, Hill City publisher; Robert ``Andy'' Hoffman, Olathe author; Philip J. Bernhart, Coffeyville attorney; and Rep. Jim Garner, D-Coffeyville.

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