Archive for Thursday, April 20, 2006

Kansas Supreme Court justice steps down from school case

April 20, 2006


— Kansas Supreme Court Justice Lawton Nuss today stepped down from further proceedings in the school finance case after it was revealed that he spoke with two lawmakers about the pending litigation.

Ron Keefover, a spokesman for the court, said Nuss has recused himself from the case "to avoid the appearance of impropriety."

Nuss of Salina had lunch with Senate President Stephen Morris, R-Hugoton, and Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, on March 1, according to Keefover.

At that lunch, Nuss shared a copy of a tabulation he had prepared that showed different levels of proposed school funding, Keefover said. Keefover said Nuss was trying to determine if the figures he had were accurate.

When news of the lunch meeting reached Keefover today, he said he told Chief Justice Kay McFarland about it. The justices had a conference and Nuss said he would recuse himself from the case.

Judges are prohibited from talking about pending cases with parties in the case outside of court proceedings.

The school finance case has been the biggest political battle in Kansas over the past year.

The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled the finance method unconstitutional and has ordered increases in funding. Lawmakers increased school funds $290 million last year, and will start their wrap-up session Wednesday to debate more increases.

Keefover said any potential disciplinary action against Nuss would have to be handled by the Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications. He declined to say whether Nuss violated ethics restrictions.

Nuss joined the court in 2002. Prior to that he had been a private attorney whose clients included the Salina school district, one of the main plaintiffs in the school funding lawsuit.

Last year, the Kansas Taxpayers Network filed a complaint against Nuss to disqualify him from the school finance case.

But the Judicial Qualifications Commission said there was no ethics violation.


Godot 12 years, 2 months ago

Acutally, Observer, the legislators did nothing wrong in asking the questions. It was the justice who erred in answering. And, apparently, he did not self-report. The question is, who ratted out to Keefover?

This just goes to show that the judicial branch should not have budgetary powers.

Mike Blur 12 years, 2 months ago

Observer, I have two questions.

1) What are you drinking? 2) Can I have some?

bearded_gnome 12 years, 2 months ago

we must not let judges order themselves into being appropriators! this is a huge constitutional issue!
likening him to Scalia...that's funny, more like Ruth Buzzy ginsberg (sp?) who was ACLU executive then goes on the supremes...Nuss represented a school district then he's supposed to sit on their case...that stinks worse than a 100-year-old privvy!

bucephalus 12 years, 2 months ago

Who says this is about giving budgetary powers to the courts? The state Constitution requires that children be provided with a quality education. The Legislature's own inquiry into education found that this was not happening, and further found that it wouldn't happen without a lot more funding. The Court simply connected the dots and told the Legislature to do what's necessary to fulfill the constitutional mandate regarding education.

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