Kansas Judicial Funding Threatened As Judge Rejects Policy Imposed On Courts
Funding for the entire Kansas judicial system is now in legal limbo.
A Shawnee County judge has struck down a law that changes the way chief judges are selected. But that law was tied to other legislation that said all funding for the judicial branch of government would be stripped away if the first law was struck down.
The Kansas Legislature passed a law that took administrative power away from the state supreme court.
The law said judges in each of the state's judicial districts would start picking their own chief judges, taking that authority away from the Kansas Supreme Court. Then, lawmakers tied the judiciary's entire budget to preserving that new policy.
In essence, lawmakers told the judicial branch to accept this new way of picking chief judges--or lose funding for the entire court system.
On Wednesday, Shawnee County Judge Larry Hendricks declared the new judicial selection law unconstitutional, saying it interferes with the supreme court's power to oversee its own branch of government. He did not rule on the legality of the subsequent legislation defunding the court system.
It remains unclear just what will happen next, but Attorney General Derek Schmidt says he'll move to keep the courts open.
J. Schafer is a reporter with Kansas Public Radio in Lawrence.