University of Kansas Law Professor Lumen Mulligan spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee on the topic of separation of powers. The committee requested his testimony after the Solomon v. State decision which at the time severed the state’s judicial budget when the court struck down the law which would have changed how chief district judges are selected.
Mulligan said, “Ultimately, separation of powers, saying that some powers are for the Governor, some powers are for the Statehouse, some powers are for the judiciary, that division of labor is designed to protect the rights of all the people, so that no one group can run roughshod over anybody else. If one of those groups overreaches, the other branches are there as a check. If the Statehouse overreaches and passes an act that’s unconstitutional, the judiciary is there to check that by striking the act. If the judiciary overreaches,. and it finds things unconstitutional and that was in error, the people may go to Constitutional amendment and act as a check. There is no emperor. Everything is checked by one power or the other. That’s the genius of our Constitutional design in the United States.
The reason for the discussion is that the legislative committee wanted some clarification on where its powers lie so that when they go back to restore the judicial budget and to pay for judges going forward, they would have an idea of what they are and are not allowed to do. Education funding in that context also came up in the discussion.
Mulligan added in his written testimony, “The branches must work together, to regulate and check each other, in much the same way that the separate organs of the body engage in unique core functions (the pumping of blood by the heart or the taking in of oxygen by the lungs) while still working together to sustain life.”