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Supreme Court-appointed committee presents recommendations on municipal court practices

An ad hoc committee appointed by the Kansas Supreme Court a year ago to review bonding practices, fines, and fees of Kansas' municipal courts presented its recommendations at a news conference September 19, 2018. The 18 committee members were appointed by Chief Justice Lawton Nuss in an order signed September 6, 2017. Of the 18 members, 16 are municipal judges, one a city attorney, and one an attorney from the League of Kansas Municipalities. The Supreme Court directed the committee to study current municipal court practices, examine the practices in other courts across the country, and recommend best practices for Kansas municipal courts. The committee's report offered 18 recommendations.

It recommends more lenient bonding schedules for defendants of all income levels. They say bond schedules should not be one size fits all, but reflect individual cases.

The committee says these recommendations have already sparked a statewide conversation.

"Much of this is already being done anyway,” said committee member Rep. Brad Ralph. “Sometimes when we get into day-to-day doing your business you don't very seldom have the chance to step back and consider okay what are we doing. Can we evaluate something? Can we change something? I think that's what this committee is allowing a lot of municipalities to do."

The Office of Judicial Administration and the League of Kansas Municipalities plan to continue examining each of the recommendations and considering next steps. There currently are 394 municipal courts in Kansas, and 234 municipal judges. Some judges serve more than one municipal court. In fiscal year 2017, Kansas municipal courts processed more than 350,000 cases. Fiscal year 2018 data are not yet published.

The state’s city attorneys will review the report at their annual meeting in October.

Mary Shultz