Politics & Government

Kansas justice warns funds shortfall will force court cutbacks

State courts in Kansas will have to close their doors for one week each month beginning in February if the Legislature doesn't restore $8 million to the judiciary budget, Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Davis said Friday.

The courts would close and place staff on involuntary unpaid leave the weeks of Feb. 15, March 15, April 5, May 10 and 24, and June 7, Davis said in a letter to court employees.

Judges would still be paid and perform duties with mandated deadlines, such as criminal cases with speedy trial concerns, search warrants, first appearances in criminal cases and certain hearings, said Ron Keefover, court spokesman.

But judges wouldn't deal with matters such as marriage licenses and wills that don't have mandated deadlines, he said.

House Majority Leader Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, said the Legislature has known about the problem since spring and will try to help as quickly as possible when lawmakers convene in January.

The shortfall was created by mistake during the 2009 session, he said. The Senate cut the judicial branch by $11 million under the mistaken assumption that the funds could be made up through surcharges on docket fees that were approved in other legislation. But the surcharges had been capped at $10 per fee. The two bills should have been resolved in a conference committee, O'Neal said.

Gov. Mark Parkinson and lawmakers vowed then to rectify it, O'Neal said. Parkinson allotted $8.1 million from his budget to cover the shortfall.

But because new estimates project state revenue will be down $235 million from April figures, fixing it won't be easy.

Read the full storyM at KansasCity.com