A three-member panel of the Blue Ribbon Commission that has been appointed to review all facets of the Kansas judiciary will conduct two public meetings in Hutchinson on Wednesday, to hear local concerns and suggestions to improve access and efficiency in the state’s court system.
Barton County Administrator and legal counselor Richard Boeckman is one of the panelists who will conduct the meeting. He will be joined by Doris Miller, co-owner Rocking M. Radio, Manhattan, and Riley County District Judge Meryl Wilson, Manhattan. The meetings will be in the Parker Student Union, Blue Dragon room. The first of the two meetings will be at 3 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 7 p.m. in the same location.
The 25-member 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 chief justice really wants to get input from the people that the judicial system serves," Boeckman said, adding he hopes there will be a good turnout Wednesday. People who miss the meeting can attend one in Topeka on May 17 or Dodge City on May 24.
The Commission will compile its findings by the end of the year so it can make recommendations to the Legislature in 2012.
"As far as I know, there are no preconceived notions," Boeckman said. However, he said the "one judge, one county" rule in Kansas may change in the future, causing some sparsely populated counties to share magistrate judges. "That’s lurking out there,"
Court of Appeals Judge Patrick McAnany, chairman of the Commission, said it will consider issues such 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."
Judge McAnany said some of the issues Commission members are especially interested in hearing about at the meeting include:
• What should be done to give the courts flexibility to adjust manpower or court facilities as workloads or funding for the courts change?
• Are there court services that could be better provided regionally, electronically, or at one central statewide location?
• How could we use technology to improve the court system? (Boeckman is on the technology committee.)
• Are there certain court services that must be kept at the county level?
• What other concerns or issues do you want the Commission to consider?
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, a report to the Supreme Court will be submitted. 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.
The Commission is accepting e-mail comments that can be addressed to KSCourtStudyBRC@kscourts.org. There also is a website that has been established at http://www.kscourts.org/Judicial-Branch-Review/Blue_Ribbon_Commission/default.asp for more information.