Last week was very full week. First, Chief Justice Lawton Nuss gave the State of the Judiciary speech from the Kansas Supreme Courtroom last Wednesday, a hearing on changing the merit selection process was held on Thursday, and three proposals dealing with the judicial branch were set for hearing.
The State of the Judiciary speech focused on the services provided by the Judicial Branch. Nuss called upon seven court employees, ranging from court clerk to district judges from the four corners of Kansas to help illustrate his point. It was a well-toned speech with no real jabs at the executive branch or pleas for funding. For those that are interested in viewing the video of his speech, see https://www.youtube.com/v/E7aUUNiMVoU?autoplay=1&rel=0.
The Court was also at issue last Thursday when KBA President Jerry Green represented the KBA in a merit selection informational hearing. Other conferees supporting the current system were Lynn Johnson from KSaJ, Mark Katz from the Kansas Association of Defense Counsel, Prof. Martin Dickinson, Prof. Jeffery Jackson, and Janice McMillen from the League of Women Voters.
Supporters of change included Lance Kinzer, Larry Heyka (father of one of the Carr Brothers victim), Prof. Stephen Ware, Brant Laue (the governor’s chief counsel), and Kris Kobach. You may find this testimony on our website at http://www.ksbar.org/judicialservices.
Also, see the Topeka Capital-Journal article of last week’s hearing at http://cjonline.com/news/2015-01-22/kobach-kansas-justices-score-lower-quality-comparison.
The hearing itself was rather quick with no person garnering more the 10 minutes. It was seen as an overview with a discussion on the current system, the federal model, and election of judges. There was even a new constitutional amendment added by Sen. Dennis Pyle that would require a judge to receive two-thirds of the vote to maintain their place on the bench. How it plays out remains to be seen, but a quick count of Judiciary Committee votes makes it very possible something leads to the House floor.
The Judicial Branch also proposed a few budget bills. They include:
- Request to use present year unspent balance of e-filing for operations;
- Extend the sunset on the Judicial Branch surcharge;
- Remove the sunset on distribution of DUI reinstatement fees. This is from last year’s HB 2303 that gave nonjudicial personnel a raise. The DUI money is now in the fund but there is no provision allowing the funds to be used; and
- Expanding videoconferencing.
This Wednesday, Chairman Jeff King (R-Independence) will hold hearings on several judicial budget bills. The KBA will support SB 44 and SB 59. That testimony will be available this Thursday.
Finally, the KBA introduced its three proposals from the Real Estate, Probate, and Trust Law Section. Those bills will be read into the record today and bill numbers assigned this weekend. You can review this bill language here.