- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss has created an advisory council of state district court chief judges to provide insights into matters facing the court system.

Nuss announced Friday that he had signed an order Jan. 10 to create the seven-member council. The intent is to get feedback from the 31 district courts in Kansas on matters relating to court procedures and administration, including funding.

The chief justice said the diverse group of judges will provide him with their insight on issues, as well as suggestions for matters the Supreme Court should consider.

“It will allow me to provide informed leadership on topics that affect our local courts in different ways based on caseloads, staffing and community needs,” Nuss said in a statement. “Chief judges manage their courts with general oversight from Supreme Court justices, so I expect this to be, for the most part, a self-directed group.”

The council selected David Ricke, chief judge of the 13th Judicial District of Butler, Elk and Greenwood counties, to serve as chairman. Two of the members, including Ricke, will serve one-year terms expiring Dec. 31 while the other five will serve two-year terms ending Dec. 31, 2015.

The formation comes as Nuss and the judicial branch negotiate with the Legislature over how to address a projected $8.25 million shortfall in the judicial branch budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Nuss has suggested that absent an increase in state funding he would be forced to furlough court employees and close courthouses for a number of days sometime after July 1.

Nuss has exchanged a series of letters about judicial funding with Senate Vice President Jeff King, who is also chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. King served on a 2011 commission formed by Nuss to look at judicial funding and make recommendations for statutory changes in how the courts operate.

King, and Independence Republican, has indicated a desire to revisit recommendations that have yet to be enacted, including better management of case filings through an electronic system for all Kansas courts. He disagrees with Nuss over how much additional funding the judicial branch needs and how the gap could be closed.

Both Nuss and King have talked about keeping lines of communications open during the legislative session. Judge Patrick McAnany, who was chairman of the 2011 commission, is scheduled to testify Monday before King’s committee.

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Online:

Kansas judicial branch: https://www.kscourts.org

Kansas Legislature: https://www.kslegislature.org

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