Opinion Columns & Blogs

Court funding fight expands to defunding provision

The court fight over the state judiciary’s funding has advanced another step, with three other district court judges around the state joining Kingman-based Chief Judge Larry Solomon of the 30th District in filing a lawsuit challenging the budgeting provision that risks defunding the entire judiciary. It was Solomon, suing alone, who won a court decision last week (since put on hold) that a 2014 law unconstitutionally stripped the Kansas Supreme Court of the authority to pick chief administrative judges for the state’s district courts. Now the four judges – Robert Fairchild of Douglas County, Jeffry Jack of Labette County and Meryl Wilson of Riley County in addition to Solomon – are targeting the provision attached to the 2016-17 judicial budget saying that if the power to pick chief judges or other earlier policy reforms are struck down, the courts will lose all funding. Last week Gov. Sam Brownback called the change in chief judge selection “fully appropriate,” arguing that “the process of selecting judges is a legislative and executive function.” But he and lawmakers should not have ignored the Kansas Constitution’s language giving the Supreme Court “general administrative authority over all courts in this state.” And if “there is no desire to strike the funding of the judicial branch,” as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King, R-Independence, told the Atlantic, why did the Legislature and governor twice pass a provision to do just that if their Supreme Court-weakening changes were struck down? – Rhonda Holman