Round One in Kansas Court Funding Fight Goes to Kaye Scholer Client

September 8, 2015

Kaye Scholer’s pro bono efforts to preserve an independent judiciary in the state of Kansas gained ground when a Shawnee County district judge found for our client and struck down a 2014 Kansas law that stripped the Kansas Supreme Court of its constitutional authority to administer the state’s unified court system.

“It is truly an honor to be aligned with our client in such a noble cause as an independent judiciary, which is the bastion against tyranny,” said Litigation special counsel Randy Sherman, who leads the Kaye Scholer team. “This is not a conservative or liberal cause. Those of all political stripes are in jeopardy when the judicial branch is under attack for doing its job—applying the law to the facts without the intrusion of extra-judicial influences.”

The September 2 decision invalidates a law signed last spring by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback that was aimed at wresting from the Kansas Supreme Court its constitutional authority to administer the state’s unified court system, including the selection of district court chief judges. Kaye Scholer, together with the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the Kansas law firm of Irigonegaray & Associates, represents Judge Larry Solomon, chief judge for Kansas’ 30th judicial district, who brought suit against the state of Kansas to undo the law. Judge Solomon argued that the law—which many in the state viewed as apparent retaliation for the Kansas Supreme Court’s unfavorable decision at the time in a case regarding the state’s system of educational funding— was an unconstitutional violation of the separation-of-powers doctrine.

In ruling in our client’s favor, the decision has set off a constitutional power struggle that has captured the attention of national press of all political persuasions. The conflict is rooted not only in the invalidated law itself, but in a subsequent bill that calls for court funding for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 to be “declared null and void” if a Kansas court were to strike down the law.

On September 4, Judge Solomon, joined by three other Kansas district court judges, brought a new suit challenging the defunding provision as unconstitutional and seeking a declaration that the provision is unenforceable while preserving the funding of the judiciary.

“We have never seen a law like this before,” Randy said in a statement last week about the defunding that was picked up by The Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones and other national media. “[I]t is imperative that we stop it before it throws the state into a constitutional crisis.”

In an email to Randy, Judge Solomon expressed his gratitude to Kaye Scholer for all the work we have devoted to this cause. “I greatly appreciate the fact that you, your team, and Kaye Scholer care enough about preserving an independent judiciary in Kansas to donate hundreds of hours of effort on our behalf. I am not unmindful of the value of those services. Please extend my thanks to all involved."

In addition to Randy, the Kaye Scholer team includes associates Charles Kreafle and David Giroux, with invaluable assistance at an earlier stage from associates Mike Gruver and Kimberly Gelfand. Litigation special counsels Jane Parver, who also worked on the case in its early planning stages, and Michael Blechman have recently joined the team to bolster its efforts.

» Read Mother Jones’ coverage.

» Read The Wall Street Journal’s coverage.

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