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Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nuss says without additional funding courts would face closures

January 22, 2014

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Kansas Supreme Court Justice Lawton Nuss quotes from the book "My Life on Trial," by prominent American lawyer Melvin Belli, during his State of the Judiciary speech before a packed crowd of legislators and court officials in the state Supreme Court hearing room Wednesday.

Kansas Supreme Court Justice Lawton Nuss quotes from the book "My Life on Trial," by prominent American lawyer Melvin Belli, during his State of the Judiciary speech before a packed crowd of legislators and court officials in the state Supreme Court hearing room Wednesday.

— Facing a budget crisis and unfriendly Republican leadership, Kansas Supreme Court Justice Lawton Nuss said Wednesday that without additional funding, courts will be forced to close.

“The only question is how long,” Nuss said.

And without referring to any pending cases or a recent verbal swipe from Gov. Sam Brownback, Nuss said the judicial system won’t decide cases based on threats or other pressures.

Nuss made his remarks during his State of the Judiciary address.

Usually a low-key event, Nuss’ speech drew a packed crowd of legislators and court officials in the state Supreme Court hearing room and was also streamed live on the Internet.

The stakes between the Kansas Supreme Court and the Legislature are high during the current legislative session.

The court is considering an appeal of a lower court panel that ruled the state has unconstitutionally cut school funding. A Supreme Court ruling in favor of the plaintiff school districts could result in the Legislature and Brownback having to increase school funding by $500 million.

Last week, Brownback said during his State of the State speech that courts shouldn’t be telling elected representatives how much to fund schools.

“Too many decisions are made by unaccountable, opaque institutions,” Brownback said as five of the seven justices sat nearby.

Nuss started his address Wednesday reading from a book written by Melvin Belli, a famous attorney who died in 1996.

The passage dealt with a judge in France taking a bribe, but the French lawyer explained that the judge was honorable because he did not take bribes from both sides.

That drew laughter from the audience. Nuss then said, “We laugh because that is certainly not the way that judges decide cases in Kansas. We do not take money from either side. Nor do we decide cases based on money’s distant cousins, threats and other pressures.”

In a brief question and answer session with reporters after his speech, Nuss was asked if that was in response to Brownback’s slap-down of the court. “If there’s a connection to be made, I’ll leave that up to you folks to make the connection,” Nuss said.

Most of his State of the Judiciary dealt with budget issues.

Nuss said the Legislature and Brownback have shorted the judicial system $8.25 million for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

He said under-funding of the courts undermines the judicial system in Kansas and will lead to days when courts will be forced to close and employees will be furloughed.

The courts were temporarily closed in 2010 and 2012 because of budget problems.

Nuss, however, thanked legislators for passage of a pay increase for certain nonjudicial employees, and hoped the agreement would lead to more cooperation between the court and the Legislature.

Comments

Thomas Bryce 11 months, 1 week ago

Supreme Court Justice Nuss said underfunding The Courts undermines The Judicial System here in Kansas. Was there ever any Doubt that this is the outcome the Kansas Legislature was hoping for? Present Law is inconvenient for them. Rather than abide by law ,they seek to change the Law To Their Liking and to their exclusive Benefit. It's "The Constitution of The United States Of America", not the menu at Burger King! Nothing but bunch of Cafeteria Constitutionalists in the Kansas GOP!

Leslie Swearingen 11 months, 1 week ago

You write the truth, Thomas, this is something we should all be concerned about, but what can any of us do to change this?

Thomas Bryce 11 months ago

Vote. Vote for whomever you want but vote. We have that. Yes, mine alone is not much more than yours alone. But if we all voted..... well, that would be Something!

Steve King 11 months, 1 week ago

Checks and balances. Nice to see someone not intimidated by Brownback. Most everybody is. In his Party but don't agree with him? He'll take you out the next election. We tend to forget 2 years down the road of the wholesale department purges his first couple of years. The silent takeover.

So typical. Can't get them to bend your way, start defunding their offices.

To the Honorable Justice Nuss. Bless you sir. You are the very last guard at the gate. You are our knight in shining armor who will slay the fire breathing dragons. You Sir, are the hero of tens of thousands of suffering Kansans who's daily subsidence is being siphoned off and given to the robber barons.

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