Topeka — 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.
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)