Kansas Supreme Court faces major rulings in 2017
Kansas Supreme Court Seated left to right: Hon. Marla J. Luckert, Hon. Lawton R. Nuss, Chief Justice; Hon. Carol A. Beier. Standing left to right: Hon. Dan Biles, Hon. Eric S. Rosen, Hon. Lee A. Johnson, and Hon. Caleb Stegall.
Credit Kansas Judicial Branch
The Kansas Supreme Court is facing a docket of major rulings in 2017.
As the Topeka-Capital Journal reports, the state’s highest court will be ruling on school funding, an abortion lawsuit and capital punishment.
The Kansas Legislature is awaiting the state Supreme Court’s ruling, after it heard arguments in September, on whether enough money is being spent on public schools.
The case stems from a lawsuit filed by four school districts in 2010 that argues the $4.1 billion in funding provided by Kansas each year to its 286 local districts is about $800 million short of what the state constitution requires.
The state has maintained that its annual spending is sufficient, but lawmakers face a big challenge if the justices set a target funding amount, as they seek ways to fill a current budget shortfall of $350 million and projected budget shortfalls of $1.1 billion through June 2019.
The ruling on an abortion lawsuit filed by two doctors challenging a ban on second-trimester abortions could reshape abortion policy.
The 2015 law prohibits doctors from using forceps or similar instruments on a live fetus to remove it from the womb in pieces and calls the procedure “dismemberment abortion,” a phrase coined by abortion opponents.
The ban’s enforcement was temporarily blocked by a Shawnee County judge, who ruled that the Kansas Constitution protects abortion rights independently of the U.S. constitution, and the Kansas Court of Appeals split 7-7 on the issue a year ago, which kept the judge’s ruling in place.
If the Kansas Supreme court agrees with the judge’s ruling, abortion opponents fear state courts could reject abortion restrictions even if they have been upheld by federal courts.
Several capital punishment cases are also on the 2017 docket.
The court is reviewing seven capital cases, one of which is an appeal for James Kraig Kahler, who was convicted of shooting his estranged wife, their two teenage daughters and her grandmother in 2009.
Four of the justices were at risk of losing their seats in the 2016 because the court overturned the first seven death sentences it reviewed under a 1994 law reinstating capital punishment in Kansas.
Since December 2015, the court has upheld three men’s death sentences, but has yet to set any execution dates.