Judges Sue Kansas for Court Funding

     (CN) – Four Kansas judges sued the state Friday, challenging the nonseverability provision of a budget bill that defunds the courts because a judge declared the governor’s budget attack unconstitutional.
     A Superior Court judge last week struck as unconstitutional a 2-year budget bill Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law last year because it contained a non-severability clause stating that if any Kansas judge struck down the bill the entire state judiciary would be stripped of funding.
     Brownback’s bill changed the method of selecting chief judges in state courts from appointment by the state supreme court to election by the judges in each judicial district. The Kansas Supreme Court opposed the bill as a violation of the separation of powers, Shawnee County Chief Judge Larry Solomon agreed in his Wednesday, Sept. 2 ruling .
     Attorneys sought to stay the ruling Thursday, fearing the ruling would kill funding for the entire Kansas court system.
     On Friday, Robert Fairchild, chief judge of the Seventh Judicial District in Douglas County (Lawrence) and three other chief judges sued the state seeking declaratory judgment that the nonseverability clause of the bill is unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable. The judges want the rest of Kansas House Bill 2005 left in effect.
     Joining Fairchild are Judges Jeffry Lack, Larry Solomon and Meryl Wilson.
     The judges are represented by Pedro Irigoneray in Shawnee County Court, Topeka.
     Irigoneray said in a statement that Brownback and the Legislature were “putting politics above the people’s constitutional right to justice.”
     “All Kansans seeking justice deserve to have their day in court, but without funding, day-to-day judicial functions would come to a grinding halt. Hopefully, this provision will be deemed unconstitutional before that happens.”

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