Kaye Scholer Pro Bono Efforts Help Preserve Kansas’ Independent Judiciary
Kaye Scholer, together with New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice and Kansas law firm Irigonegaray & Associates, represented Kansas district court chief judge Larry T. Solomon in his successful challenge to a 2014 Kansas statute, HB 2338, which stripped the Kansas Supreme Court—the state’s highest court—of its administrative authority over the state’s unified court system, including its selection of district court chief judges.
Chief Judge Solomon brought suit arguing that the statute—which many in Kansas 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. After the district court of Shawnee County held that the statute was unconstitutional, defendant State of Kansas appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court.
On December 23, 2015, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision and struck down the statute in its entirety. In finding that HB 2338 was unconstitutional as a violation of the separation-of-powers doctrine, the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling is a significant victory for fair and impartial courts in Kansas, as it upholds the judiciary’s independence and ability to govern the unified court system without interference from the other branches of government.
In the summer of 2015, during the course of this litigation, the Kansas legislature passed, and the governor signed, a judicial budget bill that contained a non-severability provision declaring that if any portion of HB 2338 were declared unconstitutional or void, the Kansas judiciary would lose its entire funding for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. Presently, there is a temporary injunction in place preventing the triggering of this non-severability provision. However, this temporary injunction will expire on March 16, 2016. Kaye Scholer, along with the Brennan Center and Irigonegaray & Associates, is currently representing four Kansas district court judges, including Judge Solomon, in another lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the non-severability provision to ensure that the judiciary is funded for the next two years.
These two cases, which set off a constitutional power struggle, have captured the attention of national press of all political persuasions, including The Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones, The Atlantic and other national media.
Kaye Scholer’s involvement in these matters began in the spring of 2014, and since that time, we have dedicated hundreds of pro bono hours to the cause. From the outset, the Kaye Scholer team was led by Litigation special counsel, the late Randy Sherman, who spearheaded the efforts to preserve the independence of the Kansas judiciary. We know that Randy would be very pleased with the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision and its affirmation of the importance of the separation of powers.
The Kaye Scholer team also includes Litigation special counsel Michael Blechman and Jane Parver as well as associate Charles Kreafle, with invaluable assistance at earlier stages from associates Mike Gruver, Kimberly Gelfand and David Giroux.