KS Chief Justice: Would-be criminals could go free if judges, clerks don't get raises

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Otherwise guilty suspects could get off scot-free if the court employees don't get raises, Kansas Supreme Court Justice Lawton Nuss argued Friday.

Pictured: Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss addressing the Media

The state's top jurist says they're having a hard time filling positions and that means problems for a suspect's constitutional right to a fair a speedy trial.

Without enough judges or enough clerks, Nuss says there just will not be an adequate number of people to handle and process cases and "a person who has been charged with a crime can be released from custody. Basically walk away free of all the charges if the speedy trial has not been provided."

The Office of Judicial Administration says wages are too low and their staff is leaving for better paying jobs.

More than a quarter of judicial branch employees' starting salaries leave them below the federal poverty level, the Appellate and District Court Classification and Compensation Study found.

Even more than that, about a third of them, have taken a second job, that's a 24% higher rate than the typical state employee, a 2014 USA Today study cited by the judicial branch stated.

Nuss says judges and court employees are paid between 4% and 22% below market value. He conceded they had received a 2% cost of living increase - eight years ago.

He’s asking the Legislature to approve a $20 million increase in their coming budget. The state, though, is already predicted to have an over $500 million shortfall.