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  • 29 Jun 2020 10:50 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Appeal No. 117,973: Brian Russell and Brent Flanders, trustee of the Brent Eugene Flanders and Lisa Ann Flanders Revocable Family Trust v. Treanor Investments LLC and 8th & New Hampshire LLC

    Archived oral argument video

    The Supreme Court today affirmed the Douglas County District Court's decision in favor of two developers in a dispute with condominium owners who objected to the developers' planned grocery store in downtown Lawrence. The grocery store would occupy the same development as the condominiums. All parties agreed the project would require a change to land use restrictions imposed on the development in the late 1990s. The Supreme Court agreed with the district court that under the terms of the restrictions, the developers were free to change them without the condominium owners' consent.

    Appeal No. 118,790: In the Matter of J.P.

    Archived oral argument video

    When John P. was a juvenile, he committed offenses and received both a juvenile sentence and an adult sentence in what is called an extended-jurisdiction juvenile proceeding. After Wyandotte County District Court found John violated conditions of his juvenile sentence, the court imposed his 237-month adult sentence. John appealed, but the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. In an opinion written by Judge Steve Leben, sitting with the court by designation, the Supreme Court held appellate courts have jurisdiction under K.S.A. 38-2347(e)(4), giving juveniles like John who are subject to extended-jurisdiction proceedings all the rights of a defendant under the Kansas Code of Criminal Procedure. Because that code would provide an adult defendant the right to appeal a final judgment imposing a prison sentence, John had the right to appeal the order imposing his adult sentence.

    Appeal No. 120,190: State of Kansas v. Michael Eugene George Jr.

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    On a direct appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed George's five criminal convictions. In an opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the Supreme Court held George's convictions for attempted distribution or possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, attempted aggravated robbery, and aggravated assault are not multiplicitous with one another. Further, the Supreme Court held George failed to properly preserve an evidentiary claim on appeal and could not reframe the issue as one of prosecutorial error. Additionally, the Supreme Court held even if the district court erred when it excluded a witness's testimony, his account was presented in its entirety through other testimony and therefore was harmless. Finding a single harmless error, the Supreme Court found George's claim of cumulative error meritless.


    Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today

  • 29 Jun 2020 10:48 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court issued the following published decisions June 26, 2020

    Appeal No. 116,151: State of Kansas v. Charles D. Satchell

    Archived oral argument video

    Satchell appealed his convictions for several sex offenses involving two children. He argued Sedgwick County District Court should not have admitted evidence at trial that he had sexually abused three other children under similar circumstances. In an opinion written by Judge Steve Leben, sitting with the court by designation, the Supreme Court held the district court properly admitted the evidence under K.S.A. 60-455(d), which allows the State to present evidence of similar prior sexual offenses to show a person's propensity to engage in that conduct. Although such evidence may be excluded if the potential for undue prejudice substantially outweighs its probative value, that was not the case here. Because the district court did not err in admitting the evidence, the Supreme Court affirmed Satchell's convictions. The district court did err, however, in imposing two different forms of supervision once Satchell finishes serving his consecutive prison sentences. The Supreme Court vacated the lifetime postrelease supervision portion of Satchell's sentence but otherwise affirmed his convictions and sentences.

    Appeal No. 117,518: Shelby Montgomery and Scott E. Bennett v. Patrick R. Saleh and State of Kansas

    Archived oral argument video

    Montgomery and Bennett were injured when a car driven by Robert Horton ran a red light and collided with Bennett's truck. Horton was being pursued by Saleh, a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper. Montgomery and Bennett sued Saleh, claiming he was negligent for failing to end his pursuit of Horton earlier than he did. They also sued the State of Kansas under a theory of vicarious liability. The district court granted summary judgment for Saleh and the State. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for trial, holding the plaintiffs should be allowed to proceed with their negligence action against Saleh. The Supreme Court granted the defendants' petition for review. In a per curiam decision, a majority of the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and reversed the district court, allowing the case to proceed to trial against Saleh. The majority held Saleh owed Montgomery and Bennett a statutory duty to drive with due regard to their safety. The majority of the Supreme Court next held the plaintiffs presented enough evidence that Saleh breached his duty of care that a jury could reasonably find in their favor. The question of breach of duty therefore became a fact question to be decided by a jury. The majority of the Supreme Court then considered whether the plaintiffs had established a prima facie case for proximate cause—both causation in fact and causation in law. The majority concluded the evidence the plaintiffs proferred was sufficient to have that question decided by a jury. Finally, the majority of the Supreme Court held Saleh was not protected by statutory immunity provisions. The plaintiffs did not seek review of the portion of the Court of Appeals decision in favor of the State of Kansas, and that ruling was accordingly affirmed.

    Justice Eric Rosen wrote a dissent, which was joined by Justice Caleb Stegall and by Judge Henry Green, who was sitting in place of retired Justice Lee Johnson. The dissent argued the facts as proferred by the plaintiffs failed to show Saleh's conduct breached a duty of care and no evidence showed Saleh demonstrated a conscious and unjustifiable disregard of the danger presented by the situation. The dissent also contended the plaintiffs' evidence was insufficient to support a finding that Saleh's conduct was the cause of the accident. The dissent maintained the evidence was speculative and would require a jury to make ungrounded assumptions about Horton's behavior as he fled Saleh's pursuit.


  • 26 Jun 2020 8:33 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Supreme Court seeks comment on proposed rule creating access to justice liaisons

    The Kansas Supreme Court is accepting public comment on a proposed rule that directs chief judges of the Court of Appeals and the state’s 31 judicial districts to each designate two liaisons to work with the court’s Access to Justice Committee to advance its efforts to remove barriers and promote equal access to justice throughout the state.

    The court will accept public comment on the proposed rule until 5 p.m. Monday, July 27. Comment may be made to publiccomments@kscourts.org with “Rule 1403” in the subject line.

    Proposed Supreme Court Rule 1403: Access to Justice Liaisons seeks to assure access to justice is promoted uniformly at all levels of the judicial branch. It requires the Court of Appeals and each judicial district to appoint two people—one judge and one court employee—to serve as local liaisons to the Access to Justice Committee.

    “By designating access to justice liaisons in each judicial district and the Court of Appeals, we hope to provide a conduit for sharing information, seeking feedback, and providing a network for discussing access to justice issues all courts face,” said District Judge Erica Schoenig, chair of the Access to Justice Committee. “Any effort to remove barriers to access to justice must include all courts to be successful, and this moves us in that direction.”

    Schoenig serves in the 10th Judicial District, which is Johnson County.

    The idea for access to justice liaisons came from the committee's review of a recent study conducted by the National Center for State Courts funded by a State Justice Institute grant. The report from the study, Kansas Judicial Branch Assessment of Self-Represented Litigant Services, emphasized the need for collaboration within the courts to further the adoption of high-quality self-help services.

    The report also noted the shifting user base in courts, where there are fewer parties in civil cases who are represented by lawyers. Judges and staff can recommend resources for these self-represented litigants, but they are prohibited from giving legal advice. The liaisons will help all courts and the Access to Justice Committee better understand these needs and how to address them.

    The 18-member Access to Justice Committee is made up of attorneys, judges, and laypeople. It was created by Kansas Supreme Court Rule 1401 for the purpose of making recommendations to the court about reducing barriers to equal access to justice, improving legal services delivery, and increasing resources available for legal services to low-income litigants in civil cases.


  • 26 Jun 2020 8:24 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Supreme Court appoints three, reappoints one to Language Access Committee

    The Kansas Supreme Court appointed three people to the Language Access Committee and reappointed a current member.

    The committee makes recommendations to the Supreme Court to ensure that people with limited English skills can access services of Kansas district courts.

    Appointed to the committee:

    • District Magistrate Judge Erich Campbell, who serves in Pottawatomie County in the 2nd Judicial District;

    • Tabitha Owen, county attorney for Smith County; and

    • Ellen House, court administrator for the 18th Judicial District, which is Sedgwick County.

    Reappointed to the committee:

    • Thomas Fields, a lawyer from Kansas City, Kansas.

    Their terms begin July 1 and end June 30, 2023.

    The court also appointed District Judge Teresa Watson as chair. She serves in the 3rd Judicial District, which is Shawnee County.

    The committee is made up of judges, court administrators, lawyers, and interpreters.

    Also serving on the committee are:

    • Chief Judge Karen Arnold-Burger of the Kansas Court of Appeals;

    • Chief Judge Bradley Ambrosier of the 26th Judicial District, composed of Grant, Haskell, Morton, Seward, Stanton, and Stevens counties;

    • Chief Judge Laura Lewis of the 16th Judicial District, composed of Clark, Comanche, Ford, Gray, Kiowa, and Meade counties;

    • Kurtis Jacobs, court administrator for the 25th Judicial District, composed of Finney, Greeley, Hamilton, Kearny, Scott, and Wichita counties;

    • Oscar Marino, a court interpreter from Lawrence; and

    • Maura Miller, a court interpreter from Overland Park.


  • 19 Jun 2020 12:11 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Supreme Court amends Kansas eCourt Rules

     

    TOPEKA—The Kansas Supreme Court has amended Rules 20 through 24, known collectively as the Kansas eCourt Rules.

     

    The amendments took effect June 12 and apply in district courts using the new centralized case management system and will apply in other courts as they begin using the system.

     

    The courts now using the centralized case management system include:

    • 8th Judicial District—Dickinson, Geary, Marion, and Morris counties.
    • 21st Judicial District—Clay and Riley counties.

    The amendments are included in Administrative Order 2020-RL-064.

    Changes under Rule 21: Definitions

    The term "filing user" has been amended to make clear this does not include any judicial branch employees, judges, temporary judges assigned to a case, retired judges or justices assigned to a case, or current Court of Appeals judges or Supreme Court justices acting in their official capacities.

    The added term "transcript" means any written verbatim record of a court proceeding or deposition.

     

    Change under Rule 22(d): Inaccessible Documents

     

    Using the public portal to the new centralized case management system, the public has access to many more documents than compared to the FullCourt system it is replacing.

    But criminal complaints and warrants are treated differently under the centralized case management system. An arrest warrant, search warrant, or bench warrant that has not been executed is not accessible to the public using the centralized case management system's public access portal.

    Comments related to this rule clarify that:

    • A criminal complaint is not sealed, even if a proposed arrest warrant is filed at the same time or an arrest warrant is pending. The criminal complaint is available to the public unless a court order previously sealed it.
    • An arrest warrant, search warrant, or bench warrant is available to the public once the return confirming the warrant was served is filed, unless a court order previously sealed it.

    Change to Rule 23(a): Filing User's Obligations

    The requirement to certify compliance with Rule 24(b) does not apply to those exempted from the amended definition of "filing user" in Rule 21(l).

    Change to Rule 23(b): Filing Under Seal

    A case or document may be sealed only if a specific court order or a statute or Supreme Court rule requires it.

    Comments related to Rule 23(c): District Court Clerk Processing of an eFiled Document

    The person filing a document is solely responsible for filing it correctly.

    Comments clarify that Rule 23(c)(1) applies to a document filed in an existing case when the district court clerks must match the county designation, the names of the parties in the case caption, and the case number.

    Change under Rule 24(b): Personally Identifiable Information

    The name of a minor who is not a named party in a case must be excluded from a pleading filed with the court unless an exception in Rule 24(c) is met. Similarly, a filing must exclude the name of a person whose identity could reveal the name of a minor who is not a named party in a case.

    Change under Rule 24(c): Exceptions

    An exception to personally identifiable information includes any information in a transcript.

    Comments were added to Rule 24 to clarify:

    • Information a filer reasonably believes is necessary or material under the exception in (c)(4) means the information is needed for the document to make sense or for its proper processing, or is information requested on a Kansas Judicial Council form.

    • If the use of initials to protect personally identifiable information is unwieldly, the first name and first initial of the last name may be used, in addition to the use of a generic identifier or a pseudonym.

    • If an exception in Rule 24(c) applies, then the information is no longer considered personally identifiable information. For example, "the physical address of an individual's residence" is considered personally identifiable information under Rule 24(b)(1); but if a law requires the physical address of an individual's residence be provided, then the address may be stated and is no longer treated as personally identifiable information.


  • 15 Jun 2020 10:21 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Justice Carol Beier announces September retirement from Supreme Court 

     

    TOPEKA – Justice Carol A. Beier announced today that she will retire from the Supreme Court effective September 18.

    Beier has served on the Supreme Court since September 2003. She earlier served on the Kansas Court of Appeals for more than three years.

    "I will be ever grateful for the opportunities I have been given to spend so much of my legal career in service to my home state and its citizens," Beier said. "Twenty years and thousands of cases since my children helped me put on my robe for the first time, I will pack it away with pride. This is possible because I can bear personal witness to the good faith and daily striving of our Kansas courts to be and remain fair and impartial guardians of the rule of law and the rights of all."

    Beier was appointed to the Supreme Court by former Governor Kathleen Sebelius and to the Court of Appeals by former Governor Bill Graves. Before taking the bench, she was a partner at Foulston & Siefkin law firm in Wichita and taught at the University of Kansas School of Law. She spent her first few years after law school in a private white collar criminal defense practice in Washington, D.C.; as a staff attorney at the National Women's Law Center; and as a clerk for former federal Court of Appeals Judge James K. Logan.

    The voters of Kansas retained Justice Beier four times – in 2002, 2004, 2010, and 2016.

    Chief Justice Marla Luckert, who has served on the Supreme Court with Beier since 2003, said Beier leaves an outstanding legacy as an appellate jurist with a steadfast dedication to the rule of law who wrote her opinions with the reader in mind.

    “Her writing is always clear and easily understood, eloquent, usually accented by a memorable and clever phrase, and reflects principled reasoning,” Luckert said. “Attorneys will recall her piercing questions, quick wit, sharp intellect, and fairness and impartiality. Court employees will speak highly of her leadership, commitment to transparency, and concern for them. Most memorable is her dedication to the rule of law. She set aside her personal opinions to embrace the rule of law knowing some of her decisions would be unpopular. She will be greatly missed, and we wish her and her family well.”

    Merit-based selection process

    Supreme Court vacancies are filled using a merit-based nomination process that Kansans voted to add to the Kansas Constitution in 1958.

    When there is a vacancy on the bench, the Supreme Court Nominating Commission reviews applications and conducts public interviews of nominees. The commission narrows the nominee pool to three names that it sends to the governor. The governor chooses one nominee to appoint.

    Eligibility requirements

    To be eligible, a nominee must be: 

    • at least 30 years old; 
    • a lawyer admitted to practice in Kansas and engaged in the practice of law for at least 10 years, whether as a lawyer, judge, or full-time teacher at an accredited law school. 

    Supreme Court Nominating Commission

    The Supreme Court Nominating Commission has nine members. There is one lawyer and one nonlawyer from each of the state’s four congressional districts, plus one lawyer who serves as chairperson. Nonlawyers are appointed by the governor. Lawyers are elected by other lawyers within their congressional districts. The chairperson is elected by lawyers statewide.

    Selection criteria

    When the Supreme Court Nominating Commission reviews nominees for justice, they look at the person’s: 

    • legal and judicial experience
    • educational background
    • character and ethics
    • temperament
    • service to the community
    • impartiality
    • respect of colleagues

    Judicial conduct

    Justices must follow the law and not be influenced by politics, special interest groups, public opinion, or their own personal beliefs. Justices demonstrate their accountability by following a Code of Judicial Conduct that establishes standards of ethical behavior. They also take an oath of office that includes swearing to support, protect, and defend the U.S. Constitution and Kansas Constitution.

    Retention elections

    After a new justice serves one year on the court, he or she must stand for a retention vote in the next general election to remain in the position. If retained, the justice serves a six-year term.

    ____

    Justice Beier’s June 12, 2020, letter to Gov. Laura Kelly and Chief Justice Marla Luckert


  • 10 Jun 2020 2:16 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    The Kansas Supreme Court issued the following published decisions June 5, 2020

    Appeal No. 114,796: State of Kansas v. Jason W. Hachmeister

    Archived oral argument video

    Hachmeister was convicted in Shawnee County District Court of premeditated murder for killing his mother, Sheila Hachmeister. On direct appeal to the Supreme Court, Hachmeister challenged his conviction claiming improperly admitted evidence under K.S.A. 60-455 and eight prosecutorial errors deprived him of a fair trial. In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the Supreme Court affirmed Hachmeister's conviction, finding the trial court properly admitted evidence under K.S.A. 60-455 and the single prosecutorial error was harmless.

    Appeal No. 115,817: State of Kansas v. Aaron Robert Brown

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court reversed a Court of Appeals panel and affirmed Cowley County District Court's action to discard the "in" prefix from "voluntary manslaughter" on Brown's jury verdict form. The Supreme Court granted the State's petition for review to resolve a panel split between State v. Brown, No. 115,817, 2017 WL 5016171 (Kan. App. 2017) (unpublished opinion) and State v. Rice, No. 103,223, 2011 WL 4031494 (Kan. App. 2011) (unpublished opinion), concerning a district court's ability to resolve inconsistencies between verdict forms and other case evidence, including charging documents and jury instructions. In an opinion written by Justice Caleb Stegall, the Supreme Court sided with the Rice panel's approach and held a strong presumption exists in favor of the literal text of a verdict form and a district court judge may only invoke the surplusage rule to discard inconsistent parts of a verdict form when the record as a whole necessarily creates doubt as to its meaning. A district court may consider anything from the record that tends to show with certainty what the jury intended, and the district court judge must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt the record as a whole clearly demonstrates the intent of the jury when discarding contrary surplusage. Applying Brown's facts, the Supreme Court held the record created doubt as to the meaning of the jury's verdict but noted aspects of the trial record demonstrated the jury's intent with certainty. With this evidence, the Supreme Court held the jury intended to convict Brown of attempted voluntary manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, the Supreme Court held the district court did not err when it discarded the "in" prefix from the verdict form as mere surplusage and reversed the Court of Appeals panel.

    Appeal No. 120,050: In the Matter of the Jill Petrie St. Clair Trust Reformation

    Summary calendar; no oral argument

    The Supreme Court today affirmed Sedgwick County District Court's order reforming a trust. In a unanimous opinion written by Senior Judge Patrick McAnany, the court held the addition of two new trust terms was necessary to conform the trust to the creator's intent. The trust was formed in 2003 to shield the assets from federal estate taxes. The newly approved terms were mistakenly omitted from the original trust document.

    Kansas Court of Appeals decisions released today


  • 10 Jun 2020 9:43 AM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    NOTICE TO ALL ATTORNEYS PRACTICING IN THE THIRD JUDICIAL DISTRICT

    June 10, 2020

    JURY TRIALS

                    Kansas Supreme Court Administrative Order 2020-PR-054, filed May 27, 2020, permits jury trials to proceed if a jury trial is required to preserve a person’s constitutional right to a speedy trial and the court has developed a detailed plan for jury operations.  The Supreme Court has appointed an Ad Hoc Jury Task Force to examine safe use of juries during pandemics.  Judge Steven Ebberts from the 3rd Judicial District is a member of the Task Force and he also chairs our local committee on Jury Trials.  The Supreme Court Task Force report is not due until mid-July.  Given the Supreme Court requirements in Administrative Order 2020-PR-054 and the necessary lead time for sending summons, it is unlikely that jury trials will resume until August 31st or after.   


  • 02 Jun 2020 1:59 PM | Amanda Kohlman (Administrator)

    Chief justice delivers annual State of the Judiciary report to governor, legislators

     

    TOPEKA—Chief Justice Marla Luckert today delivered a written State of the Judiciary report to the governor and the chairs of the House and Senates judiciary committees, as well as to all members of the Kansas Legislature.

    In other years, the written report is delivered simultaneous to the chief justice’s formal address to a joint session of the Kansas Senate and House of Representatives. That address, which had been scheduled in January, was cancelled due to a conflict of interest, and efforts to reschedule it later were stymied by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    Luckert, who became chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court in December 2019, said she was disappointed she could not deliver the report in person through the formal address, but she is pleased there was so much to cover in her written report.

    “This annual report does more than tally the roughly 400,000 cases processed by Kansas courts. It documents our efforts to modernize court operations to better meet the needs of Kansans,” Luckert said. “It’s an important check-in with the executive and legislative branches of government and the people of Kansas about strides made by the Kansas judicial branch of government to better serve our communities.”

    The report is arranged in broad categories that capture the most important advancements in judicial branch operations to occur in the 18-month period between July 1, 2018, and December 31, 2019, or the 2019 fiscal and calendar years combined. It does not include the rapid change to court operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which will be reported in 2021.

    Self-help centers

    Access to and promoting justice in Kansas courts centers on actions to make it easier for people to resolve their legal concerns without infringing on statutory or constitutional rights. It ranges from self-help resources to problem-solving courts to analyzing pretrial detention practices.

    “People who represent themselves in court unintentionally strain the system because they need support and guidance normally provided by an attorney, and it can slow case processing for everyone,” Luckert said. “Judges and court employees can’t give legal advice, so any support we offer must not interpret the law or give unfair advantage to the party who does not have an attorney.”

    In 2019, there were district-court based self-help centers in five counties: Ellis, Johnson, Miami, Sedgwick, and Wyandotte. Help offered by these centers can range from providing access to computer terminals and simplified forms to volunteer attorneys giving brief legal advice.

    The Supreme Court updated its rule that guides court staff about how to provide service without giving legal advice, and its Access to Justice Committee continues to explore how to provide a consistent level of self-help service to people without attorneys through standardized forms and processes.

    Pro bono legal services

    Related to efforts to expand self-help resources, the Supreme Court made it easier for lawyers to provide free and reduced cost legal services. Through a new rule, the court established the framework for retired, inactive, and single-employer attorneys to provide no- or low-cost legal services. It also relaxed certain reporting requirements for attorneys to eliminate redundant precautionary measures that may have deterred participation.

    Dispute resolution

    The court also approved an overhaul of rules relating to dispute resolution to provide clarity and consistency about the process and to make it more accessible to people involved in legal disputes. Through its Advisory Council on Dispute Resolution, the court streamlined training and continuing education requirements, expanded ethical rules, and described how the council will investigate complaints.

    Problem-solving courts

    Kansas had 19 problem-solving courts in 15 judicial districts in 2019. These specialty courts focus on the reasons for criminal behavior through a team approach involving the judge, court staff, a social worker or mental health professional, prosecutor, and defense attorney. By addressing the reason for the criminal behavior, the person charged can avoid incarceration while getting the help he or she needs.

    Specialty courts are for people struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, behavioral and mental health problems, or problems common among veterans.

    Ad Hoc Pretrial Justice Task Force

    Near the end of 2018, the Supreme Court created a 15-member Pretrial Justice Task Force chaired by Chief Judge Karen Arnold-Burger of the Kansas Court of Appeals. Judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and court services and community corrections officers serve on the task force, which is charged with examining current pretrial detention practices for criminal defendants in Kansas district courts.

    The task force plans to issue its final report, including its assessment of practices and procedures used in other jurisdictions, recommendations for training, and proposed pretrial best practices by November 6, 2020.  

    eCourt centralized case management system

    In 2019, the first two judicial districts moved to the new centralized case management system that is the centerpiece of the eCourt plan to transform the way courts serve the people of Kansas.

    The 8th and the 21st judicial districts, which include Clay, Dickinson, Geary, Marion, Morris, and Riley counties, transitioned to the new system in August 2019. The rollout to all state courts, including all judicial districts, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court, will continue in calendar year 2021.

    “Having courts in all 105 counties operating on the same system and sharing case data will benefit courts, as well as the people who need our services,” Luckert said. “It also supports our initiatives to achieve greater standardization, efficiency, and accountability."

    As courts move to the new system, certain accounting functions, including payment processing, will move to a centralized payment center in the Office of Judicial Administration that was formed in 2019.

    Duties now managed by district courts will be done by the centralized payment center, including:

    • monthly reconciliations;
    • writing and delivering checks;
    • submitting funds to unclaimed property;
    • managing chargebacks, overages, and small refunds; and
    • credit card payment processing and reconciliation. 

    Centralized payment center staff complete these and other functions under the supervision of accountants.

    By shifting the responsibility away from district courts, court clerk staff will be able to focus on case processing.

    Other benefits to come with the change to the new case management system are standardization of processes, workshare between judicial districts, and remote access to court records.

    Workload studies

    In 2019, the judicial branch continued to examine the volume and types of work performed by courts statewide to determine the number of staff needed to do that work. These studies allow the Supreme Court to make budget and staffing decisions based on measurable data.

    The judicial branch partners with the National Center for State Courts to conduct studies that look at the workload for court services officers, workload for court clerks, and a weighted caseload for analysis for judges of district courts, administrative support staff, and court reporters.

    Personnel costs account for about 91% of the judicial branch budget, so the Supreme Court commits to ensuring a workforce structure that addresses needs throughout the state.

    Attracting and retaining an excellent workforce

    The Supreme Court continues to request funding that will allow it to pay employees and judges at market rates. Even with modest pay increases in recent fiscal years, district court judge actual pay ranked 49th out of 50 states in July 2019, and employee pay continues to be below market from 1.7% to 17.9%.

    “The Supreme Court depends on judges and employees to meet its constitutional mandate to provide a unified court system to the people of Kansas,” Luckert said. “A well-qualified, experienced workforce is a crucial component of the court system’s success.”

    Annual report

    The 2020 Annual Report of the Chief Justice of Kansas Supreme Court is available on the judicial branch website at  www.kscourts.org/Newsroom/Publications/State-of-the-Judiciary.


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