Topeka Kansas Supreme Court Justice Lawton Nuss, who had once represented the school district that sued the state over school funding, was cleared of any ethics violation for ruling in the school finance lawsuit.
The Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications found the allegation contained "no facts evidencing judicial misconduct," according to a letter released Wednesday by Karl Peterjohn, the executive director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network. The decision cannot be appealed.
Peterjohn had filed the complaint against Nuss, who before joining the Kansas Supreme Court in 2002 had been a private attorney whose clients included the Salina school district.
The district became one of the main plaintiffs in the school funding lawsuit.
Earlier this year, Nuss was among a unanimous court that ruled the school finance system was unconstitutional and ordered increased funding. The decision led to a $290 million, or approximately 10 percent increase in school funding this year. The court has said it may order more increases next year.
Peterjohn said because of Nuss' prior relationship with the Salina school district, he should have disqualified himself from considering the case.
"This is judicial ethics 101," Peterjohn said. "A lawyer who represents a client and becomes a judge should recuse himself in a case of that client."
The commission disagreed and said in the letter that it investigated the matter and now it was closed.
Peterjohn had also filed a complaint against Kansas Supreme Court Justice Donald Allegrucci for ruling in the school finance case because Allegrucci is married to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' former chief of staff, Joyce Allegrucci. The commission rejected that complaint too.
Carrol Gilliam Green, secretary of the commission, said she could not comment on the actions because commission proceedings are confidential unless they advance to more formal proceedings.
Nuss did not return a telephone call for comment. Ron Keefover, a spokesman for the Kansas Supreme Court, declined to acknowledge a complaint against Nuss existed.
Parties in the case aren't bound by the confidentiality rule.
Though Nuss as an attorney had represented the Salina district, he was never part of the legal team hired by several school districts in the school funding lawsuit, said Rob Winter, superintendent of the Salina district.
Peterjohn's group has been highly critical of the state Supreme Court in its decisions on school funding.
More about school finance
- Webcast of live arguments before the Kansas Supreme Court (requires Windows Media Player)
- Brief of the Montoy suit (.pdf)
- Timeline of events in school finance lawsuit
- 6News video: School finance bill to face court
- Plaintiffs: School finance bill fails grade (06-13-06)
- State wants high court to dismiss school suit (06-02-06)
- Legislature approves school finance plan (05-10-06)
- Chat with Bob Corkins, Kansas Education Commissioner (02-02-06)
- House roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan (07-07-05)
- Supt. Weseman's contingency plan (07-06-05)
- More about school finance »
- Conference Committee on Senate Bill 549
- House bill info
- Senate bill info
- Kansas public schools cost study
- Kansas public schools cost study executive summary
- Public Education Finances 2004 (.pdf)
- Senate roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan
- Supreme Court's Show Cause Order (07-02-05)
- Supreme Court's Order Denying Extension (.pdf)
- Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)
- Supplemental Note on Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)