- Associated Press - Thursday, September 10, 2015

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Several Kansas lawmakers say they’re keeping an eye on the outcome of a new lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a new state law that threatens the budget of the judicial branch.

At issue is a 2015 law that declares that the court system’s funding through June 2017 is “null and void” if a 2014 law changing how judges are selected is invalidated, The Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/1KdhMaU ) reported.

The lawsuit follows Shawnee County district court judge Larry Hendricks’ declaration that the 2014 judicial selection law is unconstitutional. Hendricks said the law interfered with the power granted by the state constitution to the Kansas Supreme Court to administer the courts.

Sen. Jeff King, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said litigation by four judges on the judicial budget was a predictable consequence of the judge’s ruling.

“It’s a natural question raised by the first lawsuit,” King said. “I disagreed with the court’s ruling against local control.”

Rep. Steven Becker, a retired district court judge, said bills approved last year and this year by the Legislature brought to the forefront compelling legal questions.

“I do not know where that’s going to lead,” Becker said. “The constitution calls for three branches of government. If it (judiciary) is not funded, it’s de facto elimination of a branch. It’s going to be interesting.”

Sen. David Haley of Kansas City said legal complexities encased in the lawsuits warranted scrutiny because the objective of advocates was to undermine autonomy of the judicial branch.

Haley, who also serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said legal minds in the House and Senate should have acknowledged the approach was unlikely to pass constitutional muster.

In June, Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill that conditioned all judicial funding on the viability of a 2014 law that stripped the state Supreme Court of administrative authority over lower court administrative functions.

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, https://www.ljworld.com

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