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Budget impasse closes court on Fridays

News editor

The Kansas Supreme Court announced five days of court closures and involuntary unpaid leave for court employees April 4. The closures are the combined result of a shortfall in case filing fees and a delay in supplemental funds from the state legislature.

All district and appellate courts in Kansas, including the 8th District Court that serves Marion County, will be closed Friday, April 27, May 11 and 25, and June 8.

“Since we know the dates, we can plan ahead,” 8th Judicial District Chief Judge Michael M. Powers said Friday. “It’s not a crisis.”

All of the furlough days are on Fridays. How busy Fridays are varies from week to week, District Court Clerk Jan Helmer said Monday. Some Fridays are amazingly busy — occasionally including jury trials — while others are significantly less busy.

The Marion County court was relatively fortunate with the days scheduled for closures, because there were no jury trials scheduled for any of the five days, Helmer said.

“That’s the huge plus,” she said.

Helmer said she knew closures were possible, but she was a little surprised it came to this. It isn’t the first time court offices have closed because of budget constraints in recent years. The courts also closed for four days in 2010.

Powers will stay in contact with the Marion County Sheriff’s Department on the days the court is closed, in case there is an urgent need for a search warrant or a protection-from-abuse order. He said his biggest concern is how the closures will limit access for the public. People planning to file cases or seeking protective orders may find the court closures a major obstacle, he said.

Powers said he was disappointed closures became necessary, because he thought they could have been avoided.

Last modified April 11, 2012

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