Judge puts stay on decision that could cost KS courts all their funding

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has put on hold his order striking down a policy imposed on the courts in a move that protects the judicial branch's budget.

Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks issued a stay Thursday at Attorney General Derek Schmidt's request.

Hendricks on Wednesday struck down a 2014 law having district court judges instead of the Kansas Supreme Court pick chief judges in each of the state's 31 judicial districts. Hendricks said the law violated the state constitution by infringing on the Supreme Court's power to administer the courts.

Legislators this year passed another law nullifying the judicial branch's entire budget if the policy change was struck down.

Schmidt has promised to appeal Hendricks' decision Wednesday, and the stay will remain in effect in the meantime.

Chief Justice Lawton Nuss won't rule out having the Kansas Supreme Court review the lawsuit.

Nuss said Thursday the high court could invoke what he called "the rule of necessity" to settle whether legislators can strip the Supreme Court of the power to appoint chief district court judges in each of the state's 31 judicial districts. A 2014 law gave that power to the district court judges in each district.

Nuss said it might not be practical to replace Supreme Court justices with what he called strangers to hear an appeal.

But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King noted that the court has criticized the policy involved.