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Archive for Monday, February 21, 2005

Former justice opposes effort to have Senate confirm high court picks

February 21, 2005

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— Frustration with recent court decisions on the death penalty and school finance has caused some legislators to push for having a say in who gets appointed to the Kansas Supreme Court.

But former state Supreme Court Justice Fred Six, of rural Douglas County, advised lawmakers to keep their hands off the judiciary so that it will operate as an independent branch of government.

"The Kansas judicial vehicle has been running well," Six told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The committee is considering a proposed constitutional amendment to have appointments to the Kansas Supreme Court subject to consent by the Senate.

Currently, applicants for the court are nominated by a review committee in groups of three, and then the governor selects one. The justices are up for retention election every six years.

But several lawmakers and Atty. Gen. Phill Kline said the process is too secretive and keeps the public out of having a voice on who is selected to the seven-member court.

He and several lawmakers were disappointed in the court's recent decision overturning the death penalty.

Kline also criticized the current school finance litigation. The Legislature is under an April 12 deadline from the Kansas Supreme Court to increase school funding and find a better way to distribute those funds.

The proposed amendment on Senate consent of justices would require a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate before being put to Kansas voters for a decision.

The measure is Senate Concurrent Resolution 1606.

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