Show me the money! Such was the message of Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss before a joint session of Kansas legislators Wednesday.
“I am well aware you are still facing many challenges during this legislative session, maybe some of the biggest ones ever,” Nuss conceded, adding, “If things continue on this financial path in the judicial branch, there are serious concerns about our ability to administer the quality of justice that Kansans have come to expect and deserve.”
Unclear in the Topeka Capital-Journal article on Nuss’s message is whether he mentioned the court’s own role in creating the “many challenges” the State of Kansas faces.
“He acknowledged stark budget choices facing the 2018 Legislature,” reports the Capital-Journal’s Tim Carpenter, “which include response from legislators to a Supreme Court decision that K-12 school funding was unconstitutionally inadequate.” The reader cannot tell, however, whether Nuss acknowledged that specific challenge or whether Carpenter is covering for him.
The answer is “B”–Carpenter is covering for him. In the text, Nuss does not mention the massive financial obligation that the Supreme Court has twice levied on the people of Kansas.
Nuss makes a round about justification for the Supreme Court’s intrusiveness by quoting Ronald Reagan at some length. It was Reagan you see, not some “wild eyed, left-leaning Hollywood celebrity,” who said, “I . . . believe that the Federal Government has an obligation to enforce the constitutional rights of even the least individual among us, wherever he may be, if those rights are being denied, and to do so at the point of bayonet if necessary.”
The patronizing Nuss then reminded his audience that Reagan proudly resisted “governmental ‘interference’ in people’s lives,” but even he recognized the need to protect “the rights of even the least individual among us.” This bit of sophistry established, Nuss laid out a laundry list of things the court needs. Show me the money indeed!
The requests sound reasonable enough, but the legislators have every right to expect, if nothing else, an honest admission of the Supreme Court’s role in the financial bind the state faces before they show Nuss the money.