The Kansas Court system has been busy these last few months dealing with COVID-19. As we move into the Fall, it is good to catch up on court news.
Chief Justice Luckert laid out the Judicial Branch’s 2020 Guiding Goals in her State of the Judiciary report. These goals include maximizing access to justice, harnessing technology, attracting an excellent workforce and being a good steward of public funds. The entire report can be found here - https://www.kscourts.org/KSCourts/media/KsCourts/Publications/State-of-Judiciary-2020.pdf
Chief Justice Luckert has announced that the suspension of time limitations and deadlines will continue. The Court was granted this authority through pandemic legislation SB 102. The Court will continue the use of two-way audio-visual communications as authorized through HB 2016. Kansas courts are generally requiring mask to be worn in the courthouse and jury trials may resume under certain parameters as set out in 2020-PR-093.
The Court has continued to review jury trial protocols. The Ad Hoc Jury Task Force has been created to review ways to conduct jury and grand jury proceedings; how to summon juries while maintaining safety directives; what actions are necessary to resume jury operations; and how best to communicate these new processes to the public. You can learn more about this task force by visiting https://www.kscourts.org/About-the-Courts/Court-Administration/Court-Initiatives/Ad-Hoc-Jury-Task-Force
The Court has developed this video outlining the safety precautions being taken to protect jurors during the pandemic. See; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GysA1WWHHXo&feature=youtu.be
The Court has also created the Ad Hoc Virtual Court Proceedings Committee. This committee will review current court capabilities to proceed virtually; tools necessary to expand virtual hearings; communication to court users; and statutory changes needed to implement these recommendations. See; https://www.kscourts.org/About-the-Courts/Court-Administration/Court-Initiatives/Ad-Hoc-Virtual-Court-Proceedings-Committee
Governor Laura Kelly and the Kansas State Senate are battling through the confirmation process for two Kansas Court of Appeals positions. which became available when Judge Steve Leben and Judge G. Joseph Pierron, Jr., retired from the bench. Gov. Kelly has nominated Amy Cline to fill one position and is reviewing three candidates from which to select a nominee for the other. See; https://governor.kansas.gov/governor-kelly-appoints-amy-cline-to-kansas-court-of-appeals/ and https://governor.kansas.gov/court-of-appeals-nominating-commission-announces-three-nominees-for-court-of-appeals-vacancy-2/ The Kansas Senate must will need to review the nominees and take action in 2021.
The Kansas Supreme Court will also have a vacancy when Justice Carol Beier officially retires on September 18th. See; https://www.kscourts.org/Newsroom/News-Releases/News/2020-News-Releases/June-2020/Justice-Carol-Beier-announces-September-retirement
The Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission is scheduled to interview applicants and send three names to Gov. Kelly for her selection to the court. This merit-based process allows the nominating commission to select the three most qualified applicants with the Governor making the final appointment.
The United States District Court for the District of Kansas may soon see a new judge appointed to its bench. Toby Crouse recently sat before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee as nominee. Crouse, a former Kansas Bar Association Board Member, would need full Senate confirmation before taking the bench. See; https://vettingroom.org/2020/06/29/toby-crouse/ and https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/president-donald-j-trump-announces-judicial-nominee-5/