Solomon v. State

Citation364 P.3d 536
Decision Date23 December 2015
Docket NumberNo. 114,573.,114,573.
Parties Larry T. SOLOMON, Chief Judge, 30th Judicial District of the State of Kansas, Appellee, v. STATE of Kansas, Appellant.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Kansas

364 P.3d 536

Larry T. SOLOMON, Chief Judge, 30th Judicial District of the State of Kansas, Appellee,
v.
STATE of Kansas, Appellant.

No. 114,573.

Supreme Court of Kansas.

Dec. 23, 2015.


Stephen R. McAllister, solicitor general, argued the cause, and Jeffrey A. Chanay, chief deputy attorney general, and Dwight R. Carswell, assistant solicitor general, were with him on the briefs for appellant.

Pedro L. Irigonegaray, of Irigonegaray & Associates, of Topeka, argued the cause, and Elizabeth R. Herbert, of the same office, was with him on the briefs for appellee.

Steven C. Day, of Woodard, Hernandez, Roth & Day, LLC, of Wichita, and Amy S. Lemley, of Foulston Siefkin LLP, of Wichita, were on the brief for amicus curiae Kansas

364 P.3d 539

State Committee of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Karen Michelle Donnelly of Copilevitz & Canter, LLC, of Kansas City, Missouri, Stephen Douglas Bonney, of ACLU Foundation of Kansas, of Kansas City, Missouri, and Micheline Z. Burger, of Longmont, Colorado, were on the brief for amicus curiae American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Kansas.

The opinion of the court was delivered by ROSEN, J.:

In 1861, the people of the new State of Kansas adopted a constitution that assigned judicial power to a supreme court and to various lower courts:

"The judicial power of the State shall be vested in a supreme court, district courts, probate courts, justices of the peace, and such other courts, inferior to the supreme court, as may be provided by law; and all courts of record shall have a seal, to be used in the authentication of all process." Kan. Const. art. 3, § 1 (1861).

This multi-tiered system vested judicial power in both the Supreme Court and district courts, and the legislature provided rules for the administration of those courts. For example, the General Statutes of Kansas, 1949, provided that seniority on the bench was the criterion for designating a "presiding judge" in larger judicial districts. G.S.1949, 20–502, 20–602. The presiding judge had the authority to make "reasonable and uniform rules" for assigning actions and practice, for directing business, and for hearing motions, as long as those rules were not inconsistent with the code of civil procedure. G.S.1949, 20–502.

In 1965, the Kansas Legislature passed the Judicial Department Reform Act, K.S.A.1965 Supp. 20–318 et seq. The Kansas Supreme Court adopted rules implementing the Act. See Report of the Judicial Advisory Committee, 13 Washburn L.J. 271, 366 (May 1974). In 1966, the Kansas Supreme Court promulgated a new rule governing the assignment of cases in multiple-judge districts, effective July 1, 1967. In relevant part, it read:

"In judicial districts comprised of one county which has seven or more judges ... [all non-probate cases] shall be under the supervision and control of the Administrative Judge, who shall be designated by this Court. All cases shall be assigned by the Administrative Judge for trial to the other divisions of the District Court. The Administrative Judge may assign pretrial motions, pretrials and other preliminary matters to other divisions of the District Court." Rule 120(b), 197 Kan. lxxiv (1966).

In 1968, the Kansas Legislature codified Rule 120(b) by enacting K.S.A.1968 Supp. 20–329, which read:

"In every judicial district having more than one division, the supreme court may designate an administrative judge who shall have general control over the assignment of cases within said district court subject to supervision by the supreme court."

As we explained in Behrmann v. Public Employees Relations Board, 225 Kan. 435, 438–42, 591 P.2d 173 (1979), in 1968, the legislature established a citizen's committee to study and propose amendments to the constitution. L.1968, ch. 265. In February 1969, that committee submitted its 124–page report to the legislature. Among the significant recommended changes in Article 3 was the creation of "a unified court with overall administrative and procedural rule-making powers in the supreme court branch thereof." Report of the Citizens' Committee on Constitutional Revision, p. 43 (February 1969); see Behrmann, 225 Kan. at 440, 591 P.2d 173.

The committee's commentary on the proposed changes revealed that the purposes behind amending Article 3, section 1, included the "[p ]roper supervision, administration and discipline of judicial personnel " and "steadfast recognition of and insistence upon vigilant maintenance of the doctrine of separation of powers —with the three branches of government free from encroachments of each other." (Emphases added.) The report added that a proposed constitutional amendment unifying the court system

"would create a unified court with overall administrative authority in the supreme court branch thereof and would vest the
364 P.3d 540
supreme court with rule making power regarding process, practice, and procedure at all levels of the unified court, as well as regarding appeals. Such rule making power is, in reality, an inherent power of the judiciary. " (Emphases added.) Report of the Citizens' Committee, p. 43.

In 1972, the voters of the state of Kansas, in keeping with the recommendations of the Citizens' Committee, ratified an amendment to Article 3, § 1, of the constitution, which now reads:

"The judicial power of this state shall be vested exclusively in one court of justice, which shall be divided into one supreme court, district courts, and such other courts as are provided by law, and all courts of record shall have a seal. The supreme court shall have general administrative authority over all courts in this state. " (Emphasis added.)

In 1973, a Judicial Study Advisory Committee was formed pursuant to legislative authorization contained in Senate Joint Resolution No. 2 (1973 Session). Its purpose was to assist in a survey and study of the Kansas court system and to make recommendations to the judiciary and the legislature. See 13 Washburn L.J. at 273.

Among the ills that the Advisory Committee found in need of a cure was "fragmentation of judicial power," resulting in part in the "unnecessary variations in the practices and procedures of individual local courts. " (Emphasis in the original.) 13 Washburn L.J. at 294. "Sound judicial administration requires clear lines of responsibility and authority as well as the resources adequate to ensure effective implementation of administrative policy." (Emphasis added.) 13 Washburn L.J. at 360. Accordingly, the Advisory Committee determined that "appointment procedures and trial court management" lay among the Supreme Court's policy-making responsibilities under the new, unified court structure. 13 Washburn L.J. at 362. This meant that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court would exercise "general supervision over all matters" subject to the Supreme Court's policy-making power, including financial affairs of the courts and "the assignment of judges at all levels. " (Emphasis added.) 13 Washburn L.J. at 364. In keeping with this mission, the Advisory Committee recommended that the Supreme Court "appoint a district judge to be the administrative judge of the unified district court in each judicial district." 13 Washburn L.J. at 366.

In 1976, the Supreme Court struck what had been Rule 120 and adopted a new Rule 107, which read in relevant part:

"In every judicial district the Supreme Court shall designate an administrative judge who shall have general control over the assignment of cases within said district under supervision of the Supreme Court. Assignment of cases shall be designed to distribute as equally as is reasonably possible the judicial work of the district. The administrative judge of each district shall be responsible for and have general supervisory authority over the clerical and administrative functions of the court." 220 Kan. lvii (1976).

This rule has since been modified and, effective July 1, 2012, Rule 107 now states in relevant part:

"(a) The Supreme Court will appoint a chief judge in each judicial district.

(1) Appointment. The Supreme Court will appoint a chief judge in each judicial district.

(2) Term. A chief judge is appointed for a 2–year term that begins January 1 in an even-numbered year. An interim appointment is for the remainder of the 2–year term.

(3) Reappointment. On or before November 30 in an odd-numbered year, an incumbent chief judge must notify the Supreme Court whether the judge wishes to be reappointed.

(4) Recommendation. A judge of the district court may recommend to the departmental justice the appointment of a chief judge for the judge's district. The Supreme Court must keep any recommendations confidential." (2015 Kan. Ct. R. Annot. 202.)

K.S.A. 20–329 also has been modified over time to harmonize it with Rule 107. In 1999, it was amended to read:

364 P.3d 541
"In every judicial district, the supreme court shall designate a district judge as chief judge who shall have general control over the assignment of cases within the district, subject to supervision by the supreme court. Within guidelines established by statute, rule of the supreme court or the district court, the chief judge of each district court shall be responsible for and have general supervisory authority over
...

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