Today, Kansas House and Senate Democrats gathered on the steps of the Shawnee, Wyandotte, and Sedgwick county courthouses to highlight statewide court closures, employees being sent home without pay, and the public being denied basics services as a result of Gov. Brownback and the Republican Legislature’s failure to pass a budget.
“An entire branch of government is closed today because Gov. Brownback and the Republican Legislature failed to do their job for 73 days,” said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, Topeka. “It is inexcusable that more than 1,500 Kansans are home without pay and public services are being denied while the Governor and legislative Republicans sit on a $500 million surplus.”
Today marks the first of five scheduled furlough days, which will also include April 27th, May 11th, May 25th and June 8th. This will result in a full business week’s worth of inaccessible services. Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss ordered the closures after the Republican Legislature adjourned without passing a state budget that included a supplemental appropriation necessary to keep the courts open.
With the exception of justices and judges, all Kansas Judicial Branch employees will be on involuntary unpaid leave during these mandatory closure dates. Taxpayers will be unable to access a wide variety of court services, including normal docket proceedings and the information center.
Here are some examples:
- Child Support: District Court Trustees will be unable to collect child support or enforce support orders. Parents will also be unable to contact the District Court Clerk to determine which child support enforcement agency is assigned to their case or to file fees for post judgment motions to modify custody, visitation or child support.
- Restraining Orders: Kansans will be unable to obtain Protection from Abuse and Protection from Stalking forms, located at the Kansas Judicial Council’s office.
- Marriage Licenses: Couples will be unable to complete a marriage license application, and officiants will be unable to file a license with the county in which a marriage took place.
- Divorce Decrees: Couples will be unable to file the paperwork necessary to begin divorce proceedings, to file fees, or to file a post-decree motion if their ex-spouse has violated a prior order of the court. Couples will also be unable to obtain certified copies of divorce decrees, which are kept by the Clerk of the District Court in the county where the divorce was filed.
Because most taxpayers do not have business before the court on a regular basis, they will arrive at the courthouse on these five days with an immediate need, unaware that the services they require are unavailable. Courts in rural areas will be particularly strained as they struggle to make up the lost time with limited resources.
“Today’s action will significantly impact the court system, but this is about more than just the judicial branch,” said House Democratic Leader Paul Davis, Lawrence. “This is the first of many unnecessary consequences that Kansans will be forced to endure as a result of the failed priorities of Gov. Brownback and the Republican Legislature. After 73 days, the Legislature has created no news jobs, provided no restored funding for public schools, and threatened to blow a $3.7 billion hole in the budget with a reckless tax plan. A week of closed courts is just the beginning of our problems if Gov. Brownback and right wing Republicans don’t re-prioritize and start listening to Kansans when the Legislature reconvenes at the end of the month.”
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