Danedri Thompson
The Kansas Supreme Court will conduct a comprehensive review of the administration and efficiency of the Kansas courts, Chief Justice Lawton R. Nuss announced on Sept. 8.

The study will be the first of its kind since a 1974 study that led to the unification of state courts in 1977.

“For the first time in Kansas history, court-by-court caseloads will be studied by experts from the National Center for State Courts to make recommendations regarding judicial and non-judicial staffing statewide,” Nuss said.  “The caseloads will be examined by both number and weight, which considers such things as the complexity of cases and the driving time needed to handle cases in the state’s rural areas.”

According to Ron Keefover, education information officer for judicial administration, costs associated with the study will be paid quarterly and could be up to $200,000.

“We’re funding it from money saved from not filling vacancies,” Keefover said.

Specifically, he said there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court following the death of Chief Justice Robert E. Davis. There is another vacancy on the court of appeals due to a death as well as other vacancies that haven’t been filled including a vacancy in the law library.

Keefover said the goal of the study will be to determine efficiencies.
“Not expand the system,” he said. “…The study could show that cases could be filed electronically and save court clerk positions, but I don’t have my crystal ball out.”

The 1970 study resulted in the elimination of several county positions when the state court system was unified.

Two committees comprised of Kansas Judicial Branch personnel have been appointed by the Supreme Court to assist in the study — one committee of judges and another of court staff.

The decision to conduct a study followed weeks of meetings by Supreme Court Justices and their judicial departments. Those meetings with judges and court staff across the state are believed to be the first of their kind in Kansas legal history.

Currently, there are approximately 266 judge positions and 1,589 non-judicial positions authorized for the Kansas state courts.  During the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, Kansas state courts handled 517,968 cases, which included 177,029 traffic cases.  Once the weighted caseloads are examined, the National Center for State Courts will submit its findings to the Supreme Court.

Nuss said the findings may suggest improvements for the Kansas court system and ways to make better use of taxpayer money.