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Archive for Friday, October 27, 2000

Selecting judges grabs legislators’ attention

Former governor pushes for elections; judge weighs in favor of appointments

October 27, 2000

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— Lawyers, judges and a former governor weighed in on the different ways of selecting district judges, an issue that will be on the ballot in three counties next month.

The Special Committee on Judiciary had a hearing on the matter Thursday, continuing a decades-old debate about how to keep the judiciary independent but accountable.

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.

Shawnee County District Judge Terry Bullock said the appointive system keeps politics out of the judiciary.

He also said appointed judges are accountable to the public because they face a retention vote every four years. In addition, Bullock said, news reports on court cases allow people to keep track of judges.

"There's not a job in the world that's more public," Bullock said.

Former Gov. Joan Finney said voters should be allowed to pick judges in elections.

Outside the meeting room, she also noted that judges and lawyers were the only ones who testified in favor of the appointive system.

Rep. Tim Carmody, R-Overland Park, said he supports nonpartisan elections funded by the public.

"Why elect judges? One word: accountability," said Carmody, an attorney.

Also speaking were Jill Docking and Fred Logan, the leaders of Kansans for an Independent Judiciary. The group plans to lobby for a constitutional amendment to create a nonpartisan selection process.

Docking was the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in 1996; Logan was past chairman of the state Republican Party.

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