Kansas Supreme Court

A Kansas law that caps jury awards for noneconomic damages — things like pain and suffering — violates the right to a trial by jury, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Friday.

“This is huge,” said attorney Thomas M. Warner Jr., who represented Diana K. Hilburn, the plaintiff in the case. “We’ve had these caps on the books since 1986 in Kansas. Basically, the politicians decided that they would be in a better position to determine the amount of damages for noneconomic damages than juries. And so this decision allows juries to make that decision again.”

Kansas has joined 15 other states in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that it’s legal to fire people for being transgender.

Last week, the 16 states filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the court to overturn a federal appeals court's decision that it was illegal for a Michigan funeral home to terminate an employee who was transitioning from male to female. The appeals court ruled that Aimee Stephens’ firing violated Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination based on sex.

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At a meeting with state legislators in Garden City Saturday, citizens questioned the Supreme Court's school funding decision. The legislators said they accept the court’s decision, but will at least consider amending the Kansas state constitution.

The meeting was Garden City’s first Legislative Coffee of the new year and was attended by three local lawmakers: John Doll and John Wheeler, both of Garden City, and Steve Alford of Ulysses.

A Republican leader in the Kansas Senate says he’ll propose a fee on all utility bills in the state to help fund education.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, a Republican from Overland Park, says his plan calls for a $3 monthly fee on residential electric, gas and water bills in the state. Those with all three utilities would pay $9 more a month. For commercial customers, the monthly fee would be $10 per bill.

The whole package would raise $150 million a year, Denning estimates.

Kansas judges seek pay raises

Apr 24, 2017
KSCOURTS.ORG

Kansas Chief Supreme Court Justice Lawton Nuss told the Topeka Capital Journal’s editorial board Thursday that state funding of judicial branch salaries had fallen unacceptably below average salaries of peers in neighboring states.

The crowd filling the old Supreme Court room at the Kansas Statehouse expected a bit of a showdown Wednesday when the House K-12 Budget Committee discussed how much money to put into public education.

In the end, that debate lasted about 10 minutes and the committee stood pat on adding $150 million a year for five years for a total package of $750 million.

A proposed school funding bill in Kansas would add $75 million to the public education system but many educators say that’s far less than they expected and may not be enough to satisfy the state Supreme Court.

Stephanie Clayton, a moderate Republican from Overland Park, says lawmakers in both parties “believe it will take a significantly larger amount” to satisfy their constituents, educators and the court.

Kansas lawmakers have waited for half the session to get a look at what will probably be the basis for a new school funding formula.

Rep. Larry Campbell, the chairman of the House K-12 Education Budget Committee, released an outline of the measure Tuesday.

It looks a lot like the formula scrapped two years ago for block grants, a funding scheme ruled unconstitutional earlier this month by the Kansas Supreme Court.

In what is certain to shape up as one of its most important decisions in years, the Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday morning on whether the Kansas Constitution’s Bill of Rights enshrines a right to abortion.

The case is on appeal from the Kansas Court of Appeals, which, in an evenly divided decision last year ruled that the state Constitution recognizes a “fundamental right to abortion.”

Legislature grapples with school finance future

Mar 14, 2017

TOPEKA – The Kansas Supreme Court gave an “F” to the Legislature for fulfilling its Constitutional duty to adequately fund public schools, and some legislators were steamed when they returned to work last week for first time since the March 2 decision.

“There’s nothing that says they’re the supreme authority over us,” said Rep. John Whitmer, R-Wichita.

Did they make any suggestion whose taxes we should raise? Whitemer asked.

The Supreme Court ruling did not require a specific additional sum or even flatly order more money, although that’s the interpretation.

Kansas Supreme Court faces major rulings in 2017

Jan 13, 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 BranchEdit | Remove

The Kansas Supreme Court is facing a docket of major rulings in 2017.

KSN

Wednesday will be an important day for Kansas public-school students, reports KSN.

In two days, the Kansas Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether the system is inadequately funded. The court will decide whether the Legislature is providing enough money for Kansas public school kids to receive a suitable education. Kansas schools and teacher groups are watching the developments closely.

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Four former Kansas governors have leapt into the effort to retain Kansas Supreme Court justices, reports The Hutchinson News.

The aim of the former governors is to keep the justices around, in order to keep the court fair and impartial.

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The Kansas Legislature is considering removing the state Supreme Court’s ability to review and approve the state’s school finance laws. And one professor with the University of Kansas School of Law isn’t happy. This week Mike Hoeflich wrote a strongly worded editorial in the Garden City Telegram, calling the Legislature’s proposal the first steps toward tyranny.

Stephen Koranda

The Kansas House Wednesday advanced a bill changing the way state Supreme Court justices are selected. However, the measure came up short of the 2/3rds majority it would ultimately need to pass during a final vote Thursday.

Critics of the current system say it isn’t democratic enough, because the nominees for the court are screened and selected by a commission. Republican Representative James Todd is one of the supporters of changing the system.

cjonline.com

In the current Kansas political climate, it’s tough to be the Supreme Court Chief Justice.

How does one stay motivated when the judicial branch seems at odds with the legislative branch over school funding, selection of local chief judges, and the  division's budget is at risk if the selection law is struck down?  Add to that the judicial branch, comprised of 1,800 people, hasn't seen a raise in seven years.

kansascity.com

Last week Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill threatening to defund the entire state judiciary if it rules against a law he favors reports Slate.

The Huffington Post says Brownback has spent much of his tenure attempting to curb the Kansas Supreme Court and consolidate power in the executive branch. 

kscourts.org

Many Kansans may not know the faces that sit upon the bench of the Kansas Supreme Court.  HPPR's Cindee Talley had the pleasure of speaking with Chief Justice Lawton R. Nuss.

Nuss is a fourth generation Kansan from Salina. As a senior in high school he never dreamed of landing a seat in Supreme Court. After graduation, Nuss served four years in the United States’ Marine Corp. After discharge he continued his education in law school at the University of Kansas and graduated in May 1982.

Stephen Koranda / kansaspublicradio.org

Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss is defending the state’s system for selecting Supreme Court justices.

Governor Sam Brownback last week said the system should be changed to be, as he called it, more “democratic.” His proposals would allow the governor to pick nominees or have voters directly elect justices.

National attention is turning to Kansas as the possible key to the balance of power in the U.S. Senate with the withdrawal of the Democratic nominee and the continued lead in polls by independent candidate Greg Orman.

Brownback signs Kansas Supreme Court changes into law

Apr 21, 2014
politico.com

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback recently signed 19 bills into law.  Topping the list was and a bill stripping the Kansas Supreme Court of its appointment power as well as changing the system’s management according to a recent article from the Kansas Health Institute.

Kansas: Supreme Court rules on school finance case

Mar 7, 2014
khi.org

The Kansas Supreme Court released its decision in the school finance case.  The unanimous decision found the lower court partially erred in its conclusion, and remanded it for further consideration.  The ruling also stated the lower court properly found the state’s funding mechanism had created “unconstitutional, wealth-based disparities” among school districts according to an article from the Kansas Health Institute

John Milburn / Associated Press

Kansas Chief Justice Lawton Nuss seemed to respond to Gov. Sam Brownback’s remarks pointed at the Supreme Court in his State of the Judiciary address reported Bryan Lowry for the Wichita Eagle.