A blog post

Kansas Lawmaker Wants Deadlines On Courts Issuing Decisions

Blog Post: Kansas Lawmaker Wants Deadlines On Courts Issuing DecisionsKansas Senate Vice President Jeff King has offered Senate Bill 289 that, if passed and enacted, would impose time deadlines for most Kansas courts to have to issue decisions in cases. The impetus for the bill appears to be that Kansas legislators have been waiting for the Kansas Supreme Court to issue a ruling on a school finance lawsuit that was heard on appeal by the justices in October. This bill seemingly has problems with both enforcement and the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches of government.

BILL IMPOSING TIME LIMITS

Kansas Senator Jeff KingSenator King stated about his reasoning for proposing SB 289:

What we’ve seen in courts across the nation is there is a move to see that justice is carried out in a timely fashion. … We have seen cases that have taken more than three years to go from argument to ruling, and that’s a concern.

We’re not imposing a hard limit … If it’s been six months and the court hasn’t ruled, and there’s a good reason for that, they can explain why they have ruled, give an estimated time and the parties and the public will know when justice is likely to be administered.

The Bill, as currently proposed, provides, in part:

(a) (1)     A district court shall enter and file its decision on motions and non-jury trials within 120 days after the matter is submitted for decision.
(2)     If the district court does not enter and file its decision on a submitted matter within 120 days of submission, all counsel shall, within 130 days after the matter is submitted for decision, file with the court a joint request that such decision be entered without further delay. A copy of such request shall be sent to the chief judge of the judicial district …

 (b) (1)     The court of appeals shall render and file its decision on motions and appeals within 180 days after the matter is submitted for decision.
(2)     If the court of appeals does not enter and file its decision on a submitted matter within 180 days of submission, all counsel shall, within 190 days after the matter is submitted for decision, file with the court a joint request that such decision be entered without further delay. A copy of such request shall be sent to the chief judge of the court of appeals …

(c) (1)     The supreme court shall render and file its decision on motions and appeals within 180 days after the matter is submitted for decision.
(2)     If the supreme court does not enter and file its decision on a submitted matter within 180 days of submission, all counsel shall, within 190 days after the matter is submitted for decision, file with the court a joint request that such decision be entered without further delay. A copy of such request shall be sent to the chief justice …

The full text of the Bill can be found here: SB 289

Essentially, district courts would have 120 days to render a decision or notify the parties when a decision will be entered. The court of appeals and Kansas Supreme Court would have 180 days. There is nothing in the Bill that imposes any “punishment” if a judge or court fails to abide by a deadline.

Representative Jan Pauls, a lawyer and member of the Kansas House Judiciary Committee noted the possible separation of powers issues in the legislature ordering courts when to issue court opinions. However, he noted, “We certainly make changes in the civil procedure, and you can regard this as perhaps a change in civil procedure.”

With regard to the lack of enforcement within the Bill, King noted that it would be up “to the public to decide what should be the recourse, such as how voters decide in retention elections for judges or pushing legislators to enact more measures to put teeth in the time limits.”

The bill is set for a hearing before the Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee for February 5, 2014. You can track the progress of SB 289 on the Kansas Legislature’s website: Bills and Laws: Senate Bill 289

CONCLUSION

Judge's Gavel Coming DownWhile everyone wants speedy justice, there seems to be a significant separation of powers problem with the proposed Bill. Setting specific deadlines for court decisions seems to be a matter for the judicial branch to decide, not the legislature. These deadlines are more than other civil procedure rules. The other problem, as noted, is that Bill does not have any punitive measures for failing to follow a deadline. The judicial branch should be “apolitical” and judges and justices should not have to worry about politics when making decisions that should be based solely on the facts and the law.

Sources

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Jeffrey Lapin

Lawyer, Founder and Owner at Lapin Law Offices
I am a trial lawyer and the Founder and Owner of Lapin Law Offices. I represent injured, abused and disabled clients with caring, passion and dedication in Lincoln and throughout Nebraska.

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