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Kansas Supreme Court Selected Opinion Summaries
Farha v. City of Wichita, Docket 95445
July 13, 2007

Summaries and press releases are prepared by Ron Keefover, Office of Judicial Administration, Kansas Judicial Center, 301 West 10th, Topeka, KS 66612-1507 (785-296-2256), e-mail: keefoverr@kscourts.org.

RE: Appeal No. 95,445: Farha v. City of Wichita

The Supreme Court today unanimously rejected a class action lawsuit challenging the authority of the City of Wichita to assess and collect court costs in municipal cases.

Class representative Michael A. Farha - who was convicted in Wichita municipal court of inattentive driving, fined $100, and assessed court costs of $73 - challenged the assessment of the costs on behalf of himself and others subject to them. He asserted that Wichita had exceeded its home rule powers by opting out of a state statute generally prohibiting cities from imposing such costs.

The Kansas Supreme Court had ruled in an earlier case that the legislative act containing the court costs statute was not uniformly applicable to cities in Kansas, one factor enabling cities to opt out of the provision. Today's decision rejected several additional arguments against Wichita's municipal court costs.

Justice Carol A. Beier, writing for the Court, concluded that the Wichita charter ordinance opting out of the act's prohibition on court costs was not invalid for failing to contain "additional and substitute provisions" such as the specific schedule of court costs; that legislative amendments to provisions of the act did not repeal the charter ordinance; and that the specific schedule of costs could be set out in a regular ordinance, rather than a charter ordinance.

Justice Beier wrote that Wichita had the "constitutional right to reject state regulation in favor of local control."

She said the "City properly employed a charter ordinance to exercise its home rule authority to opt out of a state statute. It was not required to duplicate its charter ordinance effort when it adopted an ordinary ordinance to provide further particulars on the court costs previously authorized by charter . . . . The legislature had spoken. The City made a different choice. Those who could be assessed municipal court costs got all of the procedural protections to which they were entitled."

The decision also noted that the case outcome had "the added advantage of advancing the policy of liberal construction of home rule" explicitly set forth in the state constitution.