Chief Justice Marla Luckert issued the following statement today on learning the Kansas Legislature adopted 2021 Senate Bill 159, which provides the judicial branch these budget enhancements:
- Supplemental funding to replace docket fee fund revenue lost when the pandemic affected case filings. Funding for judicial branch operations depended on this previously budgeted revenue. ($7.4 million)
- Funding to bring all judicial branch employee pay to market rate over the next two years, with no employee receiving more than a 12% percent raise in the first year, fiscal year 2022. ($10.8 million)
- Funding to increase judicial salaries by 5% for each of the next two fiscal years. ($3.8 million)
- Funding to hire 70 additional court services officers in courts across Kansas. ($4.3 million)
“Today the Kansas Legislature averted a funding crisis for the judicial branch, and our nearly 1,900 court employees and judges gave a collective sigh of relief. We thank the Kansas Legislature, legislative leadership, and budget conference committee members for their support in this action.
I especially commend legislative leadership for beginning a new chapter in state government relations. You could see our courts faced an imminent funding crisis and you tailored a solution targeting that crisis to ensure we are able to continue to serve communities statewide. Through your leadership, you demonstrated your commitment to the people of Kansas and a fellow branch of government. I look forward to continuing to build on this goodwill.
It’s not an overstatement to say the funding approved today will transform our state court system, as it addresses longstanding funding concerns in addition to new ones related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not only were we concerned about the health and safety of court users, judges, and employees, the pandemic slowed case filings. Filings dropped as law enforcement wrote fewer traffic tickets and attorneys and their clients delayed filing their lawsuits. This affected fees that partially fund court operations.
We took immediate action to reduce costs by enacting a general statewide hiring freeze, and we now have a high vacancy rate. Today’s funding allows us to lift that hiring freeze.
The funding places us in a better position to compete for the talent needed to sustain court operations by addressing employee pay, which had fallen below market by as much as 18.9%.
We will be able to address judicial pay, which has stagnated. As a result of the growing gap between what the judicial branch pays and what the market provides, the number of applications from well-experienced attorneys has dwindled.
And we will be able to fill 70 additional court services officer positions that a 2019 study revealed are needed if we are to perform all statutorily required duties.
I also want to thank Governor Laura Kelly for including judicial branch funding in the governor’s budget recommendation. Her budget and budget amendments included the enhancements approved today.”