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News Releases Archive
Kansas Judicial Branch - News Releases for 1998

3/6/98 -- 1/14/98

Office of Judicial Administration
Kansas Judicial Center
301 West 10th
Topeka, Kansas 66612-1507
(785) 296-2256

For More Information,
Contact Ron Keefover
Education-Information Officer


The Supreme Court today unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the newly consolidated city and county government in Wyandotte County.

The new government, called the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, in today's ruling withstood challenges on 10 separate constitutional grounds. The court rejected all but two of the challenges and held that those two, although unconstitutional, could be severed from the rest of the enabling legislation and consolidation plan.

The enabling legislation and the plan for its implementation was challenged as violating various provisions of the state Constitution by Nick Tomasic, Wyandotte County District Attorney, who said he supports the new government but wanted to clear up concerns about its constitutionality.

Issues in the case, which was accepted as an original action filed directly in the Supreme Court, included challenges that it represented an unlawful delegation of power to an administrative agency, to a private entity and to voters in adopting it. Tomasic noted that the plan authorized the elimination of some public offices and conversion of others from elective to appointive positions, something the court said the legislature authorized by the enabling legislation.

The Unified Government became effective October 1, 1997, following the implementation of the Consolidation Act of 1996 and a local referendum adopting it that was conducted in April 1997. The referendum was placed on the ballot after a plan for the consolidation was adopted by a five-member Consolidation Study Commission that was established by the legislature. The plan took effect after neither house of the legislature objected.

Justice Bob Abbott, writing for a unanimous court, said the provision allowing the plan to take effect upon the voters' approval if the legislature did not object via a concurrent resolution violated the Constitution; however, that provision could be severed from the act. The court also ruled the issue concerning the legislature's reserved right to reject the plan is "irrelevant" because the legislature did not exercise it.

Justice Abbott said a second provision of the consolidation plan constituted an unlawful delegation of power to the judicial branch. That provision specifies that a newly created Ethics Commission within the Unified Government would be appointed by the Wyandotte County administrative judge with the consent of the other judges in the judicial district, a plan the Supreme Court found to be an unconstitutional delegation of power because it was accomplished through a city-county enactment. But the court ruled that provision also can be severed from the rest of the plan.

"Here, the appointment provision was not so important that the act, and the plan as part of it, would not have been passed by the legislature or approved by the voters, without it. The plan's provision, which required the court to delegate members to the Ethics Commission, was not an inducement for consolidation. Even without this provision, the act, with the plan, would have still operated to effectively carry out the intention of the legislature and the voters--that being consolidation of the local governments of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas.

"Plus, the plan still would have provided for the Ethics Commission in the Unified Government; it simply would have provided a different method for appointment of the Ethics Commission members, Justice Abbott wrote.

Office of Judicial Administration
Kansas Judicial Center
301 West 10th
Topeka, Kansas 66612-1507
(785) 296-2256

For More Information,
contact Ron Keefover
Education-Information Officer


Shawnee County Administrative Judge Terry L. Bullock announced today the completion of a six-month pilot project of testing electronic filing of civil cases, the first of its kind in Kansas.

The new technology was unveiled at a demonstration for the news media and state and county officials Wednesday morning at the Shawnee County courthouse. Supreme Court Justice Robert E. Davis, who was on hand for Wednesday's presentation, said this is the first project like this in Kansas.

Davis is the technology adviser to the Supreme Court and serves as chairman of the Appellate Court Technology Committee. "We at the court are excited about this project and look to the day when much of the state's judicial paper trail can be reduced to further expedite court business and proceedings," Justice Davis said.

Judge Bullock said, "We already are accepting electronic case filings for approximately 85 percent of our civil caseload." Based upon this pilot project, Shawnee County's courts plan to move forward with having additional departments on-line by the end of the year. He said the project has been "overwhelmingly successful, thanks to the cooperation of many groups of people, ranging from the legislature and Supreme Court, which provided seed money, to local attorneys and their clients, as well as court staff.

"During this program, we have had thousands of civil cases filed electronically at a fraction of the time it would have taken to process them manually," he said. "Next, we plan to make it available for all attorneys and taxpayers, who wish to file suit acting as their own attorney."

The court first began accepting filings of debt collection cases in July. These cases account for approximately 85 percent of all civil cases being processed in the Shawnee County District Court.

During Wednesday's demonstration, 100 cases were filed and docketed instantly. As a test, a deputy clerk of the district court processed an equal number last week. The manual filings took a full day to process.

"The savings to taxpayers is immense when you consider that each of these 22,000 cases, if filed individually, would require a minimum of five to 15 minutes each to process by a court clerk, if they also answer telephone calls and have other interruptions. Now, they can be processed as a batch by a couple of keystrokes in nano-seconds, not hours or days," he said.

The judge said today's announcement has been made possible only through the cooperation and help of a number of persons and groups. He said the local court received a legislative grant from the court technology fund, which is administered by the state Supreme Court. Among the attorneys donating much time and resources to make the test project successful are Walt Scott, Tom Valentine, Kent Hollins, Lou Probasco, Todd Butler and Scott McGlasson. "We also are grateful to these lawyers' clients, who automated their own account systems to conform with the new court plan," the judge remarked.

"I also would be remiss if I didn't thank our technical staff plus all
those in the office of the clerk of district court who performed above and beyond the call of duty to make this program a reality. During the past year, they have done double duty by processing all the cases by hand under the old system, while at the same time, planning and putting the new one in place."

The new streamlined process will move one step further by spring when filings of more kinds of cases will be accepted from attorneys. Also, the computers in the sheriff's service of process department soon will be connected so that at the time a case is processed in the clerk's office, the same data will be sent simultaneously to the sheriff where the only hard copy of a document is prepared by a computer for service on defendants by law enforcement officers.

"The only paperwork prepared will be the petition and summons that will be delivered to the defendant to formally notify him or her of the lawsuit. All other case information will be maintained on a computer with no paper being filed unless the matter is contested and it results in a full blown trial on the merits.