Kansas chief justice deserved more respect from Legislature
The Kansas City Star
Incoming Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick has denied a request by the state’s chief justice to present the annual State of the Judiciary report to a joint session of the Legislature.
Lawmakers have better things to do with their time, says Merrick, a Republican from Stillwell.
Actually, with nearly one-third of the incoming members of the House and Senate new to state government, a speech about the workings of the judiciary would be a very good use of time.
New members are likely to hear a distorted view from conservative Republicans, who falsely portray the judiciary as running amok. It would be good for them to listen to the chief justice explain how Kansas courts work and what their current challenges and priorities are.
By refusing to allow Chief Justice Lawton Nuss a platform for an address, Merrick is being disrespectful and small-minded.
It is encouraging to hear, however, that the Legislature supposedly won’t be wasting time this year. That would be a refreshing departure.
Last session, lawmakers spent hours debating the realignment of legislative districts, only to run out of time and have to be bailed out by … the judiciary — in this case a panel of federal judges.
Also last year, legislators burned up a few days debating and ultimately passing a measure that bans state courts from applying Islamic law. If lawmakers had a better understanding of Kansas courts, they would have known that Islamic law is no threat to Kansans, and their measure is discriminatory toward Muslims.
If lawmakers are too busy to listen to the chief justice, we’d like to think they’ll be buckling down to work on serious legislation. But if the past is prologue, it’s more likely they’ll just use the time listening to themselves talk.