Kansas Supreme Court

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A Kansas judge has issued an order that temporarily keeps Kansas court funding in place, but not everyone is satisfied.

Two laws are at the heart of the dispute: One law changes how chief judges are selected in district courts, while a second law says the judicial branch will lose all of its funding if the first law is struck down. It was struck down, but Attorney General Derek Schmidt obtained a court order to keep judicial funding in place until lawmakers are back in session next year.

T_martin 33, flickr Creative Commons

An ordinance in Wichita that lowers penalties for marijuana possession is headed before the Kansas Supreme Court Thursday.

Several Kansas lawmakers say they're keeping an eye on the outcome of a new lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of a state law that deals with financing for the court system.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the lawsuit against the state of Kansas aims to strike the law linking funding of the entire judicial branch to the survival of a mandate that judges in each judicial district control appointment of their administrative chiefs.


One of the longest-serving members of the Kansas Supreme Court has died. Former Chief Justice Kay McFarland died Tuesday.

McFarland was the first woman to serve on the state's highest court and the first female chief justice in Kansas.

McFarland graduated from Washburn Law School where she was the only woman attending classes full time. She was the first woman elected as a Shawnee County district judge in 1972 and was appointed to the Kansas Supreme Court in 1977.

J. Stephen Conn, flickr Creative Commons

A Kansas House committee approved rival proposals for changing how state Supreme Court justices are selected.

Justices would be elected under one proposal clearing the Judiciary Committee. Under the other plan, the governor would appoint the justices directly, subject to Senate confirmation.

Currently, a lawyer-led commission screens applicants for Supreme Court vacancies and names three finalists. The governor must pick one, with no role for lawmakers.

Kansas lawmakers are considering changing the way state Supreme Court justices are selected, but lawyers say the move would politicize the court.

The House Judicial Committee conducted a hearing Wednesday on two measures that would amend the Kansas Constitution. One change would select Supreme Court justices in partisan elections, while the other would allow the governor to appoint them.

Representatives of three lawyers' associations told panel that either change would weaken the independence of the judiciary.


Secretary of State Kris Kobach says Kansas Supreme Court decisions in school funding and death penalty cases show the justices are not as competent as federal judges.

Kobach was among the witnesses testifying on Thursday during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in favor of changing how state Supreme Court justices are chosen.

Kobach says the state's current system has produced what he called "mediocre results." He believes federal judges are better qualified for their jobs.

Defenders of the current system say it's worked well for decades.

A former top aide to Gov. Sam Brownback is among three finalists for a vacant seat on the Kansas Supreme Court.

A special nominating commission has chosen Court of Appeals Judges Caleb Stegall and Karen Arnold-Burger and state District Judge Merlin Wheeler from 13 applicants for the high court. Brownback has 60 days to appoint one of them to the court.

Stegall was Brownback's chief counsel until the governor appointed him to the state Court of Appeals in January of this year. Arnold-Burger has served on that court since 2011.

Former Kansas Supreme Court Justice Nancy Moritz has taken the oath of office to join the federal appeals court that handles cases from six western and Plains states. The Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals says Moritz's temporary chambers will be in Lawrence.

President Barack Obama nominated Moritz in 2013 and she was confirmed in May. Her departure gives Gov. Sam Brownback his first appointment to the state's highest court.

The Kansas Supreme Court says the state has created unconstitutional inequalities between school districts by cutting state funds.

School districts and parents filed a lawsuit asking the state to increase education funding. The court says lawmakers created inequality when they cut certain education funds during the recession.

Justices say lawmakers must solve the problem by July, and some estimates indicate that a fix could cost more than $100 million.

Joyce Eisenmenger Morrison is with the group Schools for Fair Funding, which filed the lawsuit.