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Kansas Judges Sue the State to Save the Court System from a Shut - KOAM TV 7

Kansas Judges Sue the State to Save the Court System from a Shutdown

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CRAWFORD COUNTY, KANSAS -

"It's a very real crisis. There's a genuine chance that the judicial branch will shut down,” says retired District 11 Judge Don Noland.

Noland is worried about the future of the court system he left behind.

And he's not alone. Four judges, one of them Jeff Jack of Southeast Kansas, have sued the state because of a clause in the judicial budget for the next two years that prevents lawmakers from overturning legislation. It has changed the way chief justices are appointed, taking the power away from the Supreme Court and giving the power to local judges.

A clause in the new judicial budget, signed into law by Governor Brownback in June, says if that change is overturned, then the entire court's budget would become null and void. Pedro Irigonegaray, represents the four judges suing the state and says the clause blatantly disregards the constitution's separation of powers.

“The lawyers that signed this bill into law no better. And it was done simply because of the degree of animosity that they feel for the court which is in my opinion a very immature way to deal with political questions,” says Irigonegaray.

Judge Noland says this clause that could effectively shut down the judicial branch is unprecedented in the state of Kansas and in the history of the United States.

"You can't make this stuff up. It's almost surreal to consider the closing of a constitutionally mandated branch of government, and branch of government that is used by more people than any other branch of government,” he says.

Judge Noland says a shutdown would be catastrophic.

"Pending criminal cases would be dismissed because of speedy trial violations. And by the way, that dismissal means it could not be filed again. People who are newly arrested while the courts close…would have to be released after 48 hours because there could not be a timely first appearance conducted."

Last week Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed a petition in Neosho County Court which would protect the judiciary's budget until lawmakers return to the capital on March 15th. But Irigonegaray says the petition is flawed and is pushing forward with the lawsuit. 

Judge Don Noland says a similar clause is also in next year's school budget bill. He says there is a clause that if a court order finds this school budget bill to be "constitutionally inadequate" all funding for school immediately terminates.

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