Thank you to Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network for this fine article that explains the problems that Kansas should be aware of in the Kansas Supreme Court. Readers of this website may remember that I joined Karl in filing ethics complaints against Justices Allegrucci and Nuss (The Ethics Case Against Justice Donald L. Allegrucci, The Ethics Case Against Justice Lawton R. Nuss). I thought the case we made against Justice Allegrucci was compelling, but the Commission on Judicial Qualifications didn’t think so (The Wrong Canon; The Wrong Allegrucci). But someone did, as his wife — the link to Governor Kathleen Sebelius that was the source of the ethics problem — resigned her position. Readers might be asking where is the coverage in Kansas news media of these cases.
Judicial Abuse Authorized in Kansas
By Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director, Kansas Taxpayers Network
A closed door meeting in early September in Topeka provided the excuse to expand judicial abuse at the highest level of Kansas government. The Commission on Judicial Qualifications met to consider the complaint that Kansas Supreme Court Justice Lawton Nuss should not participate in the school finance lawsuit. This commission decided that Justice Nuss did not need to recuse himself from ruling on this billion dollar lawsuit.
Prior to joining the Kansas Supreme Court in 2002, Nuss had been an attorney representing the lead school district plaintiff that is participating in this lawsuit. The Salina public schools had joined with Dodge City public schools in filing and financing this lawsuit back in the 1990’s and Nuss was one of Salina’s lawyers at that time. Nuss should have recused himself from this case since he had represented one of the plaintiffs when this case arrived in front of the court.
Three years ago when Nuss joined the Kansas Supreme Court he was expected to obey the ethics rules that supposedly exist for the members of Kansas courts. The judicial canon includes provisions that judges are supposed to avoid all appearances of impropriety. These rules in part say, “A judge shall not allow family, social, political, or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment. A judge shall not lend the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge or others; nor shall the judge convey or permit others to convey the impression that they are in a special position to influence the judge.”
Would you like to go in front a judge who used to represent the person who is suing you? No one would want to do so. This is basic legal ethics. However, you are now a target of an aggressive tax funded plaintiff that is suing you indirectly as a taxpayer. Millions of tax dollars have been spent to finance this school finance litigation in Kansas. The school districts are now suing to transfer $1 billion from the private sector to the public school districts every year. This year they received $290 million more than last year. Next year is likely to be even more costly to Kansas taxpayers.
This appointed commission has now decided that it is perfectly appropriate for Justice Nuss to rule that hundreds of millions of additional tax dollars must be spent for one of the clients he use to represent according to this judicial commission. Well, who appointed this commission of judges, ex-judges, lawyers, and mainly members of the news media? The Kansas Supreme Court appointed them to their four year terms.
So who will oversee the appointed members of this court? The answer is that the Kansas Supreme Court is untouched by ethics rules for the rest of the legal profession. Nuss’ case follows the recent dismissal of similar ethics complaints by this commission. The second complaint concerned Justice Donald Allegrucci, whose wife was until recently the chief of staff as well as the 2002 campaign manager for Governor Sebelius. Governor Sebelius has been supporting the school district’s position that state spending must be dramatically raised.
An oxymoron is a word that describes a phrase that combines contradictory elements like, “thunderous silence.” The Kansas Supreme Court now orders legislators on what is appropriate as well as what amount should be in the appropriation, issues edicts that could shut down the schools, and capriciously re-writes Kansas law. The term, “judicial ethics,” for the highest court in this state is now an oxymoron. Kansans need to know that the appointed judicial elite is now untouchable by their own ethics rules. The fiscal abuse of Kansans by this state’s highest and, arguably, most activist state court in the entire country continues. Every Kansas taxpayer will have to pay this court’s huge bill.