On September 4, four district court judges filed suit against the state of Kansas challenging a provision of a budgeting law passed earlier this year that now threatens to defund the entire Kansas judiciary. On October 9, Plaintiffs dismissed their original suit following removal to federal court and refiled a new petition for declaratory judgment.
The suit alleges that, among other things, the provision violates the state constitution by significantly interfering with the judicial branch’s authority to hear and decide cases and violates the separation of powers doctrine.
Judges in the case are Hon. Robert Fairchild, Chief Judge of the 7th Judicial District in Kansas; Hon. Jeffry Jack, district court judge of the 11th Judicial District in Kansas; Judge Larry Solomon, Chief Judge of the 30th Judicial District in Kansas; and Hon. Meryl Wilson, Chief Judge of the 21st Judicial District in Kansas. They are represented by the Brennan Center for Justice, Kaye Scholer LLP, and Irigonegaray & Associates.
On November 17, the state of Kansas filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's petition.
On December 18, Plaintiffs filed a memo in opposition to the State's motion to dismiss and in support of a cross-motion for summary judgement.
On January 29, 2016, the legislature passed a measure reversing HB 2005 and thus providing the relief sought by the plaintiffs. As a result, the parties voluntarily dismissed the case as moot.
In June, Gov. Brownback signed into law the challenged budgeting bill (HB 2005) that conditions all judicial funding on the viability of a 2014 law (HB 2338) that strips the Kansas Supreme Court of its administrative authority over lower courts. On September 2, a judge struck down that 2014 law as a violation of separation of powers in Solomon v. Kansas, but stayed his decision to keep courts funded until it can be reviewed on appeal. Two days later, four district court judges challenged HB 2005 in this case, Fairchild v. Kansas. Shortly thereafter, in another separate case, the state of Kansas asked for and received a temporary injunction in Neosho County District Court, blocking implementation of HB 2005 until March 15, 2016. HB 2005, which would completely defund the Kansas judiciary, remains on the books, as the state requested only a temporary, not a permanent, injunction.