Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Judicial selection process criticized

December 1, 2007


— A conservative legal group, Republican pollster and Kansas University law professor have teamed up to criticize the way Kansas Supreme Court justices are selected.

Stephen Ware, KU professor, said the selection process was too insular and dominated by lawyers.

"It looks to me like a good-old-boys club," Ware said earlier this week during a teleconference set up by the Federalist Society. Ware was joined by Kellyanne Conway, chief executive officer of the Washington, D.C.-based The Polling Co.

But state Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, speaking on behalf of the Kansas Bar Association, said the judicial selection process allowed the Kansas Supreme Court to maintain its independence from politics.

"It's not practicing attorneys bringing these concerns, but people who represent national interest groups that want to have an influence on the judicial system that fits their political views," Davis said.

Justices on the seven-member court are appointed by the governor from a list of three candidates submitted by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission.

In recent years, some Kansas legislators, angered over state Supreme Court decisions, have tried to change the way justices are selected. The proposals haven't gone far.

On Thursday, Ware was critical of the makeup of the Supreme Court Nominating Commission, which includes nine members, five of whom are appointed by the Kansas Bar Association.

No other state in the nation gives this much power to its bar association over the nominating process, Ware said.

And he criticized the commission's winnowing process, which is done in private.

Ware recommended giving the Legislature a bigger say in the process.

One way would be to have the governor nominate a candidate and then subject that candidate to confirmation of the state Senate - similar to the process used by the federal government in selecting federal judges.

But Davis said that proposal would open the process to more politics.

"We have seen how the Supreme Court nominations on the federal level have gone. That process has gotten out of hand," Davis said.

Ware's study was published by the Federalist Society, a group that embraces conservative and libertarian legal views. The group said it takes no position on Ware's research but provides it to educate citizens.

The Federalist Society also released a poll that shows most Kansans would prefer to have more input on who becomes a member of the Kansas Supreme Court.

The poll showed that 58 percent of Kansans agreed that a majority of the nominating commission should be appointed by elected officials. The poll also found that 85 percent of Kansans were unaware that the Kansas Bar Association selects a majority on the nominating commission.


Kathy Theis-Getto 10 years, 6 months ago

A few of the Federalist Society

Ashcroft Scalia Hatch Starr

Dedicated to the roll-back of civil rights measures, reproductive choice, labor and employment regulations, and environmental protections, to name a few.


Kathy Theis-Getto 10 years, 6 months ago

Proof of what, Marion? That the judicial nominating process should be devoid of politics? The source IS disqualified due to its stance on several important issues relative my constitutional rights.

Let's look at Rehnquist for example:

When Brown vs Board of Education WAS BEING ARGUED, a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson suggested that the court should rule against the plaintiffs in the landmark school desegregation case. While making the case for maintaining segregated schools, the clerk sent a memo to his boss saying, "It is about time the Court faced the fact that white people in the South don't like the colored people." That clerk was William Rehnquist, now chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. Seeking to put his own ultraconservatives on the Supreme Court with Rehnquist, President Ronald Reagan -- who had appointed more than half of the sitting federal judges by the time he left office -- considered nominating Lino A. Graglia, a controversial University of Texas law professor, as a federal appeals court judge for the 5th Circuit. But the nomination, which had been backed by Attorney General Edwin Meese III, was jettisoned after Graglia acknowledged that he had referred to African-Americans as "pickaninnies." The American Bar Association found the law professor "not qualified" to serve on the federal bench.

That is enough "proof" for me, thanks.

MCwzMC 10 years, 6 months ago

Let's have the public elect the judges. After all, the Americans are great at voting. Take American Idol for example. In the past two, a recent winner's CD flopped and another finalist got arrested for fighting with police shortly after an unrelated cocaine arrest.

After American Idol, there's American's second favorite popularity contest -- the presidential election. Again, a huge success. Bush has done an incredible job.

So why not. Kansans need more voting - that they can do from their couches. Instead of voting for judges based on legal competence, (which the public is obviously incapable of) Kansans should vote for judges based on which one can eat the most meal worms on Fear Factor. Then i can eat Doritos and fill out credit card applications all while voting some clown onto the Supreme Court. Now that sounds like fun!!

jumpin_catfish 10 years, 6 months ago

Let the governor nominate and the senate pick them apart. The public gets to watch this process and provide input to our elected officials. Trusting lawyers not so much!

Kathy Theis-Getto 10 years, 6 months ago


You forgot America's Top Model! Classic post.

torcia 10 years, 6 months ago

I went to KU Law and had Ware as a Prof. He is an extremley intelligent guy (albeit very socially awkward) however I disagree with him here.

I am now a prosecutor (not in kansas) and I hear people complaining all the time about the way judges are picked here and they want a system similar to Kansas. My thought is that if I want a good mechanic I would ask mechanics who the best is. Honestly how much do non-lawyers really know about certain judges or candidates? I know many great liberal judges and many great conservative judges that I appear in front of daily. Honestly I think most laymen will simply vote for the incumbent if it is a non-partisan ticket or if it is a partisan ticket the person whose party they identify themself as. I hardly think an accountant, doctor, or mechanic is qualified to determine who is the best candidate for a judgeship...just like I am not qualified to work on your engine, give you medical advice, or do your taxes.

Paul R Getto 10 years, 6 months ago

My thought is that if I want a good mechanic I would ask mechanics who the best is.

torcia: Good points, and I concur.

SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 6 months ago

I like catfish's recommendation. Let the governor nominate and make confirmation by the Senate a requirement. Open to the public.

Flap Doodle 10 years, 6 months ago

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ctrmhero 10 years, 6 months ago

I am so thankful, I went to the law school that prepare you to practice in Kanasas and not the one in Lawrence. I have worked as a prosecutor in both types of districts. If you want our judicial system to act and look like Oklahoma, do what this nut proposes. Remember those who cant teach.

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