Brownback Signs Bill Increasing Court Funding | Supreme Court Objects

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- The Kansas Supreme Court blasted the latest funding bill for the state court system passing into law. Gov. Sam Brownback signed the bill, along with 18 others, on Thursday.

“The Supreme Court of Kansas has strongly opposed this bill since its creation. We are troubled now that it has been signed by the governor," said the Court in a statement released on Friday.

Senate leaders called it the largest Judicial Branch funding increase in state history when the bill was passed last month. It gives a $10 million boost to the courts in fiscal year 2015 through additional funding and budget savings.

Much of the new funding comes through increasing court fees. Senate leaders, however, note that Kansas would still have the lowest court fees in the region. The Senate-approved measure also funds completion of an eFiling and electronic case management.

But, Chief Justice Lawton Nuss warned the courts face a projected $8 million shortfall in FY2015. He said, without additional funding, some court employees would be furloughed and court offices would close.

The bill also changes the way local courts are run by allowing the district court judges to elect their chief judge rather than letting the Supreme Court make the pick for each district.

“This legislation empowers local judges to run their courts to the best of their ability while ensuring that Kansas courts stay open,” said Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover. “With the passage of this important legislation, there should be no reason for furloughs or closings in the judicial branch.”

Supreme Court Justices, on the other hand, said the new law "weakens the centralized authority of the Kansas unified court system in exchange for money to pay our employees and keep courts open. And the money it provides still may fall short of even doing that."

“This is a poor trade. We have very serious concerns about what will happen to the administration of justice in Kansas," they added. "We believe Kansas deserves better."

Kansans for Fair Courts also criticized the bill, saying it "allowed political retribution to stand as a substitute for reasoned policymaking and respect for the rule of law"

The Legislature passed this bill to punish the Supreme Court for upholding the Kansas Constitution and ensuring that Kansas children have equitable access to a world-class education. Despite hearing from hundreds of Kansans urging him to veto this extreme measure, the Governor has once again chosen politics over protecting the best interests of our state," they continued.