Archive for Sunday, May 2, 2004

Legislation reduces administrative authority of chief justice

May 2, 2004


— The Kansas Legislature on Saturday approved a bill reducing the administrative authority of Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Kay McFarland after a debate over whether lawmakers should get involved in the court's inner workings.

Supporters of the bill said it was needed to modernize administration of the state's highest appeals court and to improve communication between the court and Legislature.

"This is good public policy," state Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said.

But state Rep. Jan Pauls, D-Hutchinson, said the Legislature was overstepping its authority in telling the court how to conduct its business.

"I have some real concerns about separation of powers when one branch of government tells the other one what to do," Pauls said.

The legislation, HB 2880, would require that a majority on the seven-member court appoint a judicial administrator and make a budget recommendation. Davis said since the justices each had administrative authority over a certain region of the state, they could provide expertise in formulating a budget recommendation.

When the legislation was originally proposed, Chief Justice McFarland opposed it. But supporters of the bill said that after technical changes were made to the bill, the entire court was in favor of the measure.

State Rep. Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, read an e-mail from Justice Robert Gernon, of Lawrence, to legislators that said, "The court is in favor of the present version of the bill."

Not so, Pauls said. She said McFarland and at least two other justices were opposed to the bill. McFarland could not be reached by the Journal-World for comment.

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