Topeka Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss will be making a public appeal that legislators cover an $8.25 million budget shortfall in the judicial system, it was announced Thursday.
Nuss plans to deliver the State of the Kansas Judiciary address at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 22 during a live webcast from the Supreme Court. The address can be accessed by following the Watch Supreme Court Live! link in the right column of the Kansas Judicial Branch website at www.kscourts.org.
It is believed to be the first time in Kansas' 153-year history that the judiciary address has been delivered from the courtroom of the Supreme Court, officials said.
Kansas law requires the chief justice to deliver a report to the governor and members of the House and Senate judiciary committees at the start of the legislative session. In recent years, the address was often given in the House chamber in the Statehouse.
But last year, House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, turned down a request from Nuss to address the Legislature. Initially, Merrick had said the address took up too much time, but then later said he requested a different format to hear from the judiciary.
This year, Nuss said he has decided to provide a live judiciary address to the public because of heightened interest in problems in the judicial budget passed by Republican legislators and signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback.
A committee appointed by the Kansas Supreme Court to study the budget said if the shortfall isn't fixed, court employees could face 10 days of unpaid furlough; 120 positions would remain unfilled, and 20 positions would be eliminated.
The committee's report "makes it abundantly clear that if the Legislature does not appropriate more money, tough decisions — including closing Kansas courts — will need to be made," Nuss said.
The relationship between the courts and Republican leaders has been strained in recent years.
During the 2012 session, Nuss closed the courts for a day after legislators were slow to act on the state budget.
A 2005 ruling by the Supreme Court regarding school spending resulted in the Legislature increasing education funding. It has prompted several attempts in the House to pass a constitutional amendment to state that only the Legislature — not the courts or executive branch — could appropriate money.
Another school finance case is pending before the court.