TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The next two scheduled Friday court furloughs are postponed and all four remaining could go away all together, if lawmakers make good on a promise to approve money to see the Judicial branch through the rest of the fiscal year.
Chief Justice Lawton Nuss made the announcement Monday. He says it follows assurances he received last Friday from key lawmakers that a supplemental appropriations bill would be approved when lawmakers returned this week for their wrap up session.
"Most telling to me was the message repeated by Rep. Marc Rhoades. He is not only chair of the House appropriations committee, but also chair of the House's budget conference committee," Nuss said in a statement released Monday afternoon. "His comments, plus those of his fellow appropriations committee members, that the legislature will fund the courts were significant to the Supreme Court."
Still, Nuss wasn't ready to cancel the furloughs outright. In making the announcement, Nuss said he was postponing the statewide closing of all district and appellate courts set for Friday, April 27, and Friday, May 11, until May 24th and June 7th. The scheduled furlough days of Friday, May 25, and Friday, June 8, are unchanged.
“Waiting until May 24 should give the legislature more than enough time to make good on the House committee’s stated intentions, Nuss said.
Court spokesperson Ron Keefover confirmed that if the supplemental appropriations bill is approved, all four dates would be canceled.
Nuss first announced the five Friday furlough dates when lawmakers left for their spring recess in late March without approving the supplemental appropriation for reasons unrelated to the Court's budget. Nuss said he wanted to spread out any furlough days over a number of pay periods, rather than concentrate them in a few.
Further information from the Kansas Supreme Court:
Nuss acknowledged that, if lawmakers do not approve the supplemental appropriations, the postponement is not without problems. Changing furlough dates means that any court business that may have been originally scheduled for May 24 and June 7 in 105 counties will now have to be rescheduled. This affects not just court personnel and judges but also witnesses, court litigants, their attorneys, and Kansans called for jury duty.
“Changing the direction of the court system is not like turning a bass boat, while fishing on a Kansas lake," Chief Justice Nuss said. "It is more like trying to turn an aircraft carrier underway at sea.”
Also, reopening the originally scheduled court closures on April 27 and May 11 may not allow previously canceled hearings to be held then. But reopening does allow the offices of the clerks of the courts to be available to the public.
Finally, postponement risks employees losing two furlough days per pay period, which reduces employees’ paychecks by about 20 percent, if the supplemental appropriation fails to be passed.
The Chief Justice concluded by repeating the message from his April 4 news conference.
“The Supreme Court is not interested in pointing fingers. We are interested in trying to help fix this mess. Today’s decision is our effort to help fix it.”