Justices Mulling Over Education Funding Suit

Oct 10, 2013

In the Kansas Supreme Court hearing on school funding this week, justices had some pointed questions for the attorneys.

At issue is whether the state should increase education spending. But how much can we gather about the possible outcome of the case from the questions and comments made by the justices?

Here’s just one example from the oral arguments:

When Justice Eric Rosen pointed out that the state had agreed to increase education funding in a past lawsuit.

“Essentially, it stands before me in my eyes as a broken promise,” said Rosen.

So, do tough comments like that hint at the final outcome? Not necessarily, according to Washburn University law professor Jeffrey Jackson.

“A lot of times judges are trying to test the way they’re already thinking and to see if there could be problems with it," he said. "Generally speaking, they ask the questions because they want to know.”

Also, a comment from one justice doesn’t mean the other six agree, and even judges who ask pointed questions and seem to lean one way could eventually choose to vote the other way in a case.

Richard Levy is a professor of law at the University of Kansas.

“When they get back in chambers, they talk about it with the other justices," he said. "They do the research, they try to write the opinion, their views may change.”

The court could have a decision in the case before the end of the year.