Judging the Courts

by Melissa Brunner

A lot has changed since the 1970s. Gone are the wide-legged pants, platform heels and jumpsuits... oh, wait - bad examples.

Let's try this again.... You now have hundreds of channels on TV instead of three or four - and those TVs are now just a few inches wide instead of a three to four foot box! Your phone doesn't have to have a cord on it anymore - in fact, you can make a call from the middle of a lake if you want! And there's this new-fangled thing called the internet.

The latter is a big reason why the Kansas court system is undergoing its first major review since the 1970s. A Blue Ribbon Commission wants to hear from YOU about any concerns you have about the court system and any suggestions you have for its improvement. Do we have too many judges - or too few? Do you like the way judges are appointed? Is it really necessary to have a courthouse and judicial proceedings in every county? What information should we be able to access online? Are sentences for criminals harsh enough - or are they too harsh? A few other areas in which the commission is especially interested:

·What should be done to give the courts flexibility to adjust manpower or court facilities as workloads or funding for the courts change?

·Are there court services that could be better provided regionally, electronically, or at one central statewide location?

·How could we use technology to improve the court system?

·Are there certain court services that must be kept at the county level?

·What other concerns or issues do you want the Commission to consider?

It's easy to think that, with any luck, you won't have to worry about any contact with the court system. But we all want to be safe and live in safe neighborhoods. The courts play a large role in achieving this. Do you really want a violent offender back on the streets because, say, some statutory deadline wasn't met? Maybe some appearances could be handled via web video conferencing instead of making all the interested parties travel from whereever they might be. Court spokesperson Ron Keefover also points out that anyone who's ever had a speeding ticket, paid or received child support or needed a marriage or death certificate has had contact with the Kansas court system.

Now is the time to make your voice heard. Two members of the Blue Ribbon Commission will hold two public meetingss Tuesday, May 17th at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library's Marvin Auditorium. One is at 2:30pm to accomodate public officials; the other is at 6pm and geared toward the general public. True, their focus is on efficiency of court operations, but there is always concern over how efficiency might impact convenience, access and public service. This is why they need public input.

We'll be covering this process as it happens. You also can learn more at www.kscourts.org.


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