Kansas Governor Threatens to Destroy State's Judiciary
HandelontheLaw.com Staff Writer
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback hates his state’s Supreme Court, which has upheld the state and federal constitutions in defiance of Brownback’s actions. In fact, the governor is so threatened by the separation of powers that in early June 2015 he signed a bill that will defund the state’s entire judiciary if the court rules against another law he favors.
The background of this showdown is somewhat convoluted. After his election in 2010, Governor Brownback basically made Kansas a Tea Party experiment with deep tax cuts. The experiment flopped, with devastating effects on Kansas’ economy. In 2014, the state Supreme Court ruled that the inequality between school funding in rich and poor districts violated the state constitution and ordered the legislature to remedy the problem. The legislature and Governor actually retaliated against the judiciary by passing an Administrative Law stripping the Supreme Court of its authority to appoint local chief judges and set district court budgets. They also threatened to pass further administrative laws:
- Subjecting the justices to recall elections;
- Splitting the court;
- Lowering the mandatory retirement age for justices;
- Using partisan elections to judgeships (instead of the current nominating committee and gubernatorial appointments).
The current administrative law probably violates Kansas’ state constitution but the governor has signed a bill to defund the state’s entire judiciary if it does not support the administrative law.
First, that kind of extreme action by an extremist governor seems to indicate that the state’s judiciary is doing its job. The judiciary is not supposed to be a rubber stamp for a mayor or a governor or a U. S. President. The judiciary is supposed to interpret the law, including but not limited to the constitution, and to help define and check the powers of the two other governmental branches (legislative and executive). Good job, Kansas state judiciary!
Secondly, I would expect the judiciary to sue the governor/legislature in federal court, as the federal government and the U. S. Constitution would have a few things to say about erasing a state judicial branch that does not kowtow to a governor and legislature.
By Kathy Catanzarite
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