Archive for Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kansas Supreme Court selection process may be an issue in governor’s race

August 10, 2010


— The process Kansas uses to select its state Supreme Court justices may soon become an issue in this year's race for Kansas governor.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Sen. Sam Brownback will unveil changes in the next month that he believes need to be made in the judicial selection process, spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said Monday.

A spokesman for Brownback's Democratic challenger, state Sen. Tom Holland of Baldwin City, said the current system seems to work well but the campaign would study it further if voters expressed interest.

Currently, a nine-member commission nominates three candidates for each Supreme Court opening to the governor, who makes the final selection. Five of the commission members are lawyers elected by other lawyers. The other four are non-lawyers appointed by the governor.

Kansas is the only state where attorneys, nominated by attorneys, hold a majority on the selection committee.

"You have basically 2.7 million people in Kansas who have no vote in that election (of the attorneys on the commission) and 9,000 people who get to vote," Stephen Ware, a law professor at the University of Kansas, told The Wichita Eagle.

Twelve other states use the nomination process, but attorneys aren't a majority of the committee. Voters select judges in 22 states; in another 13 states, the governor nominates the judges, who are confirmed by one or more chambers of the Legislature.

In South Carolina and Virginia, the Legislature appoints judges.

State Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he would like the state to choose Supreme Court justices in a way similar to the federal process, where the president picks a nominee, who is confirmed by the Senate.

"Our current system gives attorneys too much control over the nominating process," said Kinzer, who is an attorney.

The federal process guards against politics or cronyism, Kinzer told the Eagle.

Glenn Braun, president of the Kansas Bar Association, defended the current system. He said having four of the attorneys from different congressional districts ensures a geographic diversity on the commission. And he noted that commission members are limited to two terms.

"Is there a problem with the way it is done now?" said Seth Bundy, spokesman for Holland.

While some groups disagree strongly with decisions the courts have made, no recent scandal has suggested that the system is broken, said Burdett Loomis, political science professor at the University of Kansas.

"The Supreme Court has functioned pretty well, by and large," he said.

Altering the process would require changing the state constitution, which would need a two-thirds vote in the House and the Senate and approval of the governor. Then voters would have to approve the change.

"We've had many years in a row where we've had good hearings on the issue," Kinzer said. "There has always been significant support for the idea of reform, but not support that would rise to the level of two-thirds."


Jimo 7 years, 9 months ago

"The federal process guards against politics or cronyism, Kinzer told the Eagle."

No, it injects politics into the process. And, I might add, money into politicians pockets.

What evidence is there of any problem whatsoever with the current system other than agenda-driven critics chasing a fantasy that Decision X or Y would have turned out different is somehow the process was altered?

"Our current system gives attorneys too much control over the nominating process."

Translation: the only people with sufficient insight into the qualifications of judicial candidates are allowed to exclude the hacks, cronies and incompetents who would be available to push my outcomes-based agenda.

sciencegeek 7 years, 9 months ago

"Bottom Line Secret: Changing the system will give Politicians more power over the bench, but won't give the people, as such, any benefit. The lawyers on the commission are not nearly as easy to train and control as the political appointees. "

Bur don't you see---that's the whole point! How DARE those judges disagree with the legislature! How DARE they be non-political! An impartial judiciary---what are you THINKING!!!

Besides, everything will be made right during the Brownback administration--he's got a direct line to God, you know. And if the Big Guy is not available , Sam can always contact the the Legislature-- they think they're God.

situveux1 7 years, 9 months ago

Non-political? Is that why the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was forced from hearing the Montoy school finance case because he was talking numbers with Senate President Steve Morris? There's no such thing as non-political. The idea that a bunch of lawyers could get together & pick a new judge without politics entering into their thought process is laughable.

Jimo 7 years, 9 months ago

"There's no such thing as non-political."

Thank you, Comrade Lenin.

kansanjayhawk 7 years, 9 months ago

The current system is broken! Look at our school finance cases! These judges apparently don't respect separation of powers--they even want to force tax increases on us-- which is blatantly unconsitutional as a legislative function. We need judges who respect the law and refuse to make up law out of thin air. Original intent is the key reason we need judicial restraint!

Tom McCune 7 years, 9 months ago

Letting the lawyers who practice before the court select the judges actually works fairly well. It is done that way in some other countries. The lawyers who practice before the court know the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates better than anybody.

Brownnote just wants to pack the court with theofascists like himself.

kansanjayhawk 7 years, 9 months ago

Brownback in no more a theofascist then Holland is a secular humanist progressive liberal. Labeling is a tactic both sides should avoid. Mr. Brownback has a proven record of representing Kansans he even changes his positions when necessary to conform to the views of the people look at the immigration issue. Holland is my Senator and he can't even return constitutent phone calls before he votes for the largest tax increase in the history of the State of Kansas. Holland is risky...

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