Archive for Thursday, June 15, 2006

Nuss to face complaint of alleged judicial ethics violations

June 15, 2006


— In the first such case for Kansas, state Supreme Court Justice Lawton Nuss will face accusations Aug. 10 that he violated judicial rules.

The alleged violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct stem from Nuss' conversation with two legislators about school finance, a pending case before the court. Judges are prohibited from talking privately with interested parties during a case.

Nuss has removed himself from future deliberations in the school finance lawsuit.

An investigative panel for the Commission on Judicial Qualifications Commission, which polices judicial conduct, alleged that Nuss' conversation violated several rules that require a judge to:

¢ Uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary,

¢ Avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge's activities, and

¢ Perform the duties of judicial offices impartially and diligently.

At a pre-hearing conference Thursday, Judge J. Patrick Brazil, a member of the judicial qualifications commission, set the hearing for Nuss on Aug. 10.

Attorneys in the case said that Nuss and the two lawmakers he spoke with Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, and Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, will testify.

J. Nick Badgerow, an Overland Park attorney representing Nuss, said several character witnesses will also be asked to testify about Nuss' "sterling character."

Nuss has apologized for "this lapse in judgment" and acknowledged the conversation could be seen as a violation of judicial standards.

But Nuss, through a filing with the judicial qualifications commission, said he did not intentionally violate the Canons of Judicial Conduct and that no harm occurred from the meeting.

Nuss met Brungardt and Morris on March 1 at Carlos O'Kelly's restaurant in Topeka.

Nuss said he had questions about a proposed school finance bill in the House and how that funding compared with what education cost-studies said was needed for schools.

In April, Nuss disclosed the conversation when it became apparent it would be publicized and then removed himself from further court decisions in the case.

The disclosure has caused a furor among lawmakers who have been critical of the court's rulings in the school finance litigation.

Last year, the Kansas Supreme Court declared the school finance system unconstitutional because it shortchanged all students, especially those in low-income areas. The ruling resulted in a special legislative session, a $290 million funding increase, and a warning from the court that more money would be necessary to pay for the actual costs of education.

This year, lawmakers approved a three-year, $466 million increase for schools, which is currently being reviewed by the court.

After Nuss' admission, House leaders formed an investigative committee to determine whether his communication with lawmakers influenced legislative work on the school funding bill.

But Nuss' attorney on Thursday said that investigation was "not relevant" to what is before the judicial qualifications commission.

"The sole focus of this matter is what happened at Carlos O'Kelly's," Badgerow said.

Representing the judicial qualifications commission will be examiner Edward Collister, a Lawrence attorney.

Both attorneys said they expected the Nuss hearing to take one day. Ron Keefover, a spokesman for the court, said a decision in the matter could take up to months after that.

Nuss' case represents the first time the commission has opened a formal hearing against a member of the Kansas Supreme Court.

The commission would recommend to the state Supreme Court what disciplinary action, if any, should be taken. The Supreme Court could censure Nuss or suspend him. Under the Kansas Constitution, a justice can be removed only if the House impeaches him and two-thirds of the Senate votes to convict.

Badgerow said he doesn't believe Nuss' conversation warrants any kind of sanction.


Bobo Fleming 12 years ago

Now the Journal World called this matter a "Fuss." Very much downplayed the seriousness of the alledged breach of ethics. This "fuss" is getting interesting. I wonder how long the Journal World will consider this matter to be a "waste of time."

Jamesaust 12 years ago

Other than the date of the hearing, is there anything in this article that hasn't been printed before now?

moderation 12 years ago

Let's see.... judges and lawyers judging their superior, and another lawyer "prosecuting" a judge that will, along with his other supreme court friends, rule on that lawyer's future cases.

I'm sure they'll get to the bottom of what "really" happened. Yeah right.

Slap on the wrist at best in Nuss' future. He'll probably get praised for his admitted misconduct.

KsTwister 12 years ago

Atty Nick Badgerow tried once to ruin my sterling character=he did not get far. Nuss would do well to lose this guy,even judges don't like his arrogance. And as I learned from past events, if they cannot win they at least will lie to you so they can. What a joke.

BJ 12 years ago

Maybe we can give the money spend on this BS to the Ottawa family that needs it (see another LJW article late today). Give Nuss a fine and apply that as well to the poor kid that is dying and that the US of A cannot seem to help. What a GREAT country we live in. Hypocrisy rules, lives don't freaking count. Pass the ammunition. Yours truly.

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