• Special to the Leader & Times
A rigorous schedule of statewide community meetings to hear citizens’ comments and suggestions about improving Kansas court operations and case dispositions was released recently by the Blue Ribbon Commission, a 25-member study group that will make recommendations for improvements to the Supreme Court.
Elkhart’s Bob Boaldin, owner of EPIC Touch EPS, is a member of the commission and will represent the 26th Judicial District in Southwest Kansas.
The first of 19 public meetings was conducted in Norton Monday to hear local concerns and suggestions to improve access and efficiency in the state’s court system, according to Court of Appeals Judge Patrick McAnany, commission chairman.
The Blue Ribbon Commission was appointed by the state Supreme Court from across the state to undertake a complete review of the court system, the first such since the 1970s, when the Kansas courts were unified.
“The commission will consider such issues as the number of court locations needed to provide access to justice, the services to be provided in each court location, hours of operation, appropriate use of technology, cost containment or reductions, and flexibility in the use of human resources,” McAnany said. “However, the commission is not limited to those subjects and has the authority to review other operational efficiencies associated with the court system.”
Conducting the public meetings in Norton will be commission members Donna Elliott, Clerk of the District Court, Hill City; District Magistrate Judge Richard Flax, Wakeeney; and Chief District Judge Kim Cudney, Greenleaf. The meetings will be in the Prairie Land Electric Cooperative Building in Norton. The first of the two meetings will be at 4 p.m. to accommodate local officials who wish to attend and make their comments. A second meeting to hear comments and suggestions from the general public will begin at 6 p.m. in the same location.
McAnany said the issues commission members are especially interested in hearing about at the meeting include:
o What should be done to give the courts flexibility to adjust manpower or court facilities as workloads or funding for the courts change?
o Are there court services that could be better provided regionally, electronically, or at one central statewide location?
o How could we use technology to improve the court system?
o Are there certain court services that must be kept at the county level?
o What other concerns or issues should the commission consider?
McAnany said the Blue Ribbon Commission has not arrived at any recommendations to make to the Supreme Court, but is meeting at 18 locations throughout the state in April and May as a fact-finding mission. Once the meetings are concluded, the commission will meet and consider all suggestions and concerns expressed during them.
In addition to the information obtained from the scheduled meetings, the Blue Ribbon Commission will have the results of a weighted caseload study of both judicial and non-judicial staff time required to process the court system cases. The weighted caseload study is the first review in Kansas history to accurately measure the time and personnel required to process cases by considering such influences as case complexity, the driving time for some judges in less populated areas to travel from court to court within their district, as well as the administrative burdens.
Once the commission completes its work, it will submit its report to the Supreme Court. It is expected that the report will contain recommendations for action the court can take on its own authority, as well as action that may require legislative approval or constitutional change.
Besides the opportunity to make suggestions or concerns known at the community meetings, community members are encouraged to send their suggestions and comments by e-mail addressed to:
. The meeting schedule may be found at http://www.kscourts.org/Judicial-Branch-Review/Blue_Ribbon_Commission/default.asp, a Web site that has been set up to assist those interested in finding more information about the commission.