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Archive for Wednesday, November 1, 2000

Graves, justices see eye to eye on judges

Governor, high court denizens say appointments preferable to elections

November 1, 2000

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— Gov. Bill Graves and the Kansas Supreme Court have come out in favor of appointing judges, weighing in on a decades-old debate that now involves voters in three counties.

Questions about selecting judges are on the Nov. 7 ballot in Atchison, Leavenworth and Shawnee counties. In each, judges are appointed by the governor, and the proposal would have them elected.

In Kansas, 53 counties elect district judges, and 52 use a system by which judges are appointed.

Supporters of appointing judges they describe the system as "merit selection" say it's crucial that politics stay out of the judicial branch. Critics contend elections make judges accountable to voters.

In a written statement Monday, Graves said the judicial nominating commissions in the appointive system "take their responsibilities very seriously."

Graves added, "I have found all the nominees who have been selected for my consideration to have been well-qualified, honest, compassionate and hardworking people who are sincerely dedicated to public service."

In a statement released Tuesday on behalf of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Kay McFarland called the nonpartisan selection method a "very open process."

She said comments from the public are sought for each judicial vacancy, and interviews for judicial nominees are open to the public.

"The selection of judges based on their merits is far superior to the partisan political process," the chief justice said.

Former Gov. Joan Finney has taken a strong stand in support of letting voters select judges and is urging Shawnee County residents to vote in favor of judicial elections.

"Judges have extreme power over our lives and our property," Finney said in a statement released earlier this month. "Voters deserve to choose those who govern them."

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