To the editor:
Your editorial (“No fix needed,” Jan. 13) opposed Senate confirmation of Kansas Supreme Court justices but offered no solution to the problems of bar domination and secrecy in Kansas’ current judicial selection process. Kansas is the only state that gives its bar (the state’s lawyers) majority control over the selection of state supreme court justices. None of the other 49 states selects justices this way, so why should Kansas?
A dozen states have their justices confirmed by the state senate or similar popularly elected body. Nobody has shown that our state’s supreme court is somehow less political than the supreme courts of those dozen states. By contrast, the political side of the Kansas selection process is documented in a paper I published at www.fed-soc.org/kansaspaper.
Your editorial defends Kansas’ bar-dominated system by asserting that the Kansas bar is not very “homogenous.” In fact, those the Kansas bar elects to the Supreme Court Nominating Commission are, with very few exceptions, older white males. The Kansas Senate is more diverse. I have nothing against lawyers – I’m proud to be one – but the 7,666 lawyers in Kansas are an awfully small and, yes, homogenous group to have majority control over one of the three branches of government.
The Kansas bar’s tops-in-the-nation power is one concern, but the secrecy in which it exercises that power is another. The Nominating Commission votes in secret, while Senate confirmation votes are public. Let’s make government in Kansas as open and accountable as it is in other states.
Stephen J. Ware,