Kansas courts preparing to increase caseload

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Kansas courts could soon be handling a bigger caseload.

Courts have been operating during the coronavirus pandemic, but have only been performing essential functions. Many of the hearings that took place were to make sure that people weren’t held in custody longer than they would be normally.

Many courts implemented video software that was used to remain socially distant, but not all courts had this technology.

Now that the governor’s stay-at-home order has been lifted, courts are beginning to inch back to normal.

Some are beginning to open to the public, but they are requiring appointments or limiting the amount of people that can be in the courthouse.

Kansas Supreme Court Justice Marla Luckert said it will be up to local public health officers to decide what’s best for courthouses in their community.

“Many of them have come into the courthouses and done walk-throughs with judges, the chief judge of the local court, to make recommendations about how to make the public spaces safe,” Luckert said.

“There’s a big difference between opening a court and opening a business,” Luckert said. “You could decide I don’t want to go to that business, I don’t feel safe, but with a court, if we issue a summons for someone to appear either as a party, a witness, or a juror, or anything else, that’s a command that they may feel that they have an obligation to do.”

The chief justice has also suspended case deadlines in regards to time limitations. She is now reaching out for public opinion to see if and how to extend them.

“At what point do we feel like people will be able to meet those time requirements?” Luckert asked.

She said she wants make sure people aren’t treated unfairly.

“The ones I’m most concerned about are those that have enormous consequences for a litigant in a case,” she said. “There are some deadlines that if you miss them, that can mean that you can’t bring a cause of action or it can mean that the judge is going to dismiss your cause of action, and those are the ones I’m most interested in protecting, to the extent we need to suspend them, but we also don’t want to needlessly suspend them and just slow down people’s ability to get resolution of their causes of action.”

Luckert also said some courts are considering staying open later to keep up cut down on the backlog and implement night court.

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