More Justices, E-Filing Funding Suggested In State Of The Judiciary

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The state's Chief Justice suggests lawmakers create and fund 22 new judicial positions to meet the needs of underserved areas.

Hon. Lawton Nuss made the proposal in his "State of the Judiciary" report released Thursday to lawmakers. He says it's an alternative to repealing a statute that requires at least one judge be located in each of the state's 105 counties.

A caseload study last year found Kansas has enough judges, but some aren't placed where they're needed most. Nuss says, without the new positions, the one-judge-per-county statute should be repealed.

Nuss also requested funding to fully implement a statewide electronic case filing system. Such a system was among 11 recommendations made last year by a special Blue Ribbon Commission, which studies the state's judicial branch.

Nuss says current funding from legislative appropriations and federal grants fuels an e-filing system in the state's two appellate courts and Shawnee County District Court, as well as pilot projects in Douglas, Leavenworth, and Sedgwick county district courts.

In his report, Nuss wrote that complete implementation of a centralized statewide e-courts environment, from filing to case management and document management systems, could further efficiencies in court operations.

"Upon completion, such a combination of statewide systems could allow court personnel in any location to work virtually on court business in any other location, once again allowing the Supreme Court to more effectively and efficiently manage the state’s court system. Properly used, such statewide systems could help us to keep a functioning ‘open for business’ court clerk’s office in all 105 counties," Nuss wrote. "It might be suggested that these electronic systems are absolutely critical to keeping some of these offices open, and further suggested that keeping these offices open is absolutely critical to providing access to justice for our fellow Kansans living in those areas.”

Nuss delivered his report to the Legislature in writing. The past several years, Chief Justices have addressed a joint session of the Legislature. However, House Speaker Ray Merrick declined Nuss' request this year, saying the information could be considered in written form and an in-person speech would take up time that could be better spent on other matters.

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