Opinion Columns & Blogs

Kansas judicial funding crisis has national attention

The Wall Street Journal called it a “blow-up clause.” Mother Jones termed it a “self-destruct mechanism.” Lawmakers and Gov. Sam Brownback say it’s no big deal. In any case, the “non-severability clause” at the heart of Kansas’ judicial funding crisis is getting national attention. Included in 2014 and 2015 laws, the language calls for all state court funding to vanish through June 2017 if new reforms weakening the Kansas Supreme Court’s authority over district courts are ruled unconstitutional. That’s what happened to one reform early this month, though a judge put the trigger on hold for now. Four judges have filed suit over the defunding clause. The Atlantic also has covered Kansas’ “full-blown judicial crisis,” saying it could shut down the state’s courts. Lyle Denniston, the National Constitution Center’s adviser on constitutional literacy, wrote: “When the legislature uses its budget powers in a way that definitely seems to be controlling how judges rule on legal questions, that stirs up the separation-of-powers controversy to a pitched level. The drama in Kansas has now mushroomed into a fundamental test of the nature of state government, at least when two of the branches are so at odds that a constitutional crisis develops.” – Rhonda Holman