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Court Strikes Down Kansas Law, Stay Filed to Keep Courts Funded

The Kansas district court decision to strike down a 2014 law could invoke a provision clause of another law that defunds the entire Kansas court system.

September 3, 2015

ContactSeth Hoy, Bren­nan Center for Justice, seth.hoy@nyu.edu or 646–292–8369; Randolph Sher­man, Kaye Scholer LLP, Randolph.Sher­man@kayescholer.com or 212–836–8683; Pedro Irigoneg­aray, Irigoneg­aray & Asso­ci­ates, pli@plilaw.com or 785–640–0660

Septem­ber 3, 2015

KANSAS – A Shawnee County District Court judge ruled last night that a 2014 law strip­ping the Kansas Supreme Court of its admin­is­trat­ive author­ity over district courts is uncon­sti­tu­tional and viol­ates the separ­a­tion of powers doctrine. This morn­ing, lawyers in the case moved to stay the ruling, however, to prevent defund­ing of the entire Kansas court system.

Earlier this year, Kansas Gov. Sam Brown­back (R) signed a judi­cial budget bill that funded the state courts over the next two years. The bill, however, contained a non-sever­ab­il­ity clause stip­u­lat­ing that if any Kansas court strikes down the 2014 law (as Judge Larry Hendricks did last night), the entire Kansas court system would lose fund­ing. The move to stay last night’s decision until the Kansas Supreme Court can review will prevent this provi­sion from going into effect and allow the Kansas courts to remain open.

“Strik­ing down the 2014 law is a victory for the people of Kansas and fair courts every­where,” said Matthew Menen­dez, Coun­sel at the Bren­nan Center for Justice. “The court right­fully rejec­ted the legis­lature’s attempt to inter­fere with the oper­a­tion of the unified state court system. Kansas voters specific­ally amended the consti­tu­tion to give the Kansas Supreme Court this author­ity. This ruling upholds the will of the people.”

“With this ruling, we plan on chal­len­ging the budget law that threatens to defund Kansas courts,” added Randolph Sher­man of Kaye Scholer LLP. “We have never seen a law like this before and it is imper­at­ive that we stop it before it throws the state into a consti­tu­tional crisis.”

“If allowed to go into effect, the budget­ing law would bring dire consequences for every Kansan,” said Pedro Irigoneg­aray of Irigoneg­aray & Asso­ci­ates, Judge Solomon’s Kansas lawyer. “Without fund­ing, our state courts would close, crim­inal cases would not be prosec­uted, civil matters would be put on hold, real estate could not be bought or sold, adop­tions could not be completed. Justice would be delayed, poten­tially denied, for Kansans and for anyone else rely­ing on our judi­cial system for justice. We must not allow the Kansas legis­lature and Governor Brown­back to get away with this outrageous disreg­ard for the rule of law and reck­less disrespect for the inde­pend­ence of Kansas’ judi­ciary.”

The bill strip­ping the Kansas Supreme Court’s admin­is­trat­ive author­ity was slated to go into effect Janu­ary 1, 2016.

Larry T. Solomon, Chief Judge for Kansas’ Thir­ti­eth Judi­cial District, who brought the suit ruled on last night, plans a separ­ate legal chal­lenge to the state’s court fund­ing bill. He is repres­en­ted by the Bren­nan Center for Justice, Kaye Scholer LLP, and Irigoneg­aray & Asso­ci­ates.

Read the ruling here.