Letters to the Editor

Subverting the system

August 13, 2010


To the editor:

Contrary to the statement made in Wednesday’s J-W article, Kansas is NOT the only state in which lawyers form a majority of the judicial selection committees. Lawyers make up a majority in Alaska, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and the District of Columbia as well. The reason for having a large number of lawyers on the nominating committees is pretty obvious. Persons who have gone to law school are likely to understand better than the average person the qualifications necessary for superior judges, who, of course, must be lawyers.

There is a very well-financed right-wing movement to eliminate nonpartisan selection of judges all around the country. The attempt to subvert our system is part of that national movement. It did not originate among Kansans.

The promoters of this movement do not like nonpartisan, unbiased judges. They want judges who are biased in ways that they approve. They apparently think the chances of getting judges who are biased in their favor will be better if they can politicize the selection process. The chances of getting politically radical judges, whether of the right or left, are minimal with a nonpartisan selection system.

For several years bills were introduced in the Kansas Legislature, seeking to bring our appellate judges under political control. So far they have had no success for the simple reason that Kansans, both Republicans and Democrats, like our nonpartisan system of judicial selection. We are justifiably proud of it. It has worked very well in producing highly qualified nonpartisan judges.


cato_the_elder 7 years, 5 months ago

Good letter. While our current system isn't perfect and necessarily has a small degree of back-room politics associated with it, re-politicizing the process to the level that would occur with the changes suggested by those who want to eliminate our non-partisan selection process is not productive.

Boston_Corbett 7 years, 5 months ago

"There is a very well-financed right-wing movement to eliminate nonpartisan selection of judges all around the country."

Yup. Organizations like the Koch financed Americans for Prosperity are in the middle of it with both feet.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 5 months ago

Good letter; good points. This is another bad idea dreamed up by those who search for problems that don't exist to try and further their own narrow interests. (See recent Supreme Court decision on corporations and campaign finance.) Democracy and justice are for all of us, not just those with loud mouths and/or large stock portfolios.

Graczyk 7 years, 5 months ago

True. Someone has to choose the judges though. Bias can't be eliminated from every system, just reduced. Or at least the appearance of it reduced.

I don't understand how the choice of cars (private and individual) is analogous to the choice of judges (public and shared).

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 5 months ago

Given that your ideal "government" would entail essentially dismantling everything but the court system, where everyone would be suing each other all the time, over pretty much everything, how would you select the judges, given that the court system would need to be many times as bigger than it is now? Would the courts be privatized, too?

beaujackson 7 years, 5 months ago

Time to stop subsidizing the law school

George Lippencott 7 years, 5 months ago

The real measure of any process is in the outcome. If the judges selected make both partiers equally unhappy or equally happy then it must be doing something right. If one party is offended and the other silent than there is a problem!! Selection of judges is a political process even if we try to make sure the choices are among those qualified.

camper 7 years, 5 months ago

Not in my opinion George (with all due respect). Separation of power is an important concept that needs to be kept in place. Executive, legislative, and judicial. They should not mingle or be privy with each other. This is one of the reasons why (as much as we disagree with one another and imperfect as we are) the United States is the most enlightened and free place on the planet. Be it liberal or conservative, I don't like it when I see politics influencing our judicial system. These are the folks we need to keep out of political polarization.

camper 7 years, 5 months ago

My bad George. I did not read your comment close enough. The key word was "both" in your second sentence.

camper 7 years, 5 months ago

Out of the three, the judicial branch is generally the "cooler head in the room". When politics and emotional thinking get in the way.

George Lippencott 7 years, 5 months ago

Being a cool head does not in my opinion avoid politics in our judicial system.

It has always been there

.At least in Kansas we can try to make sure of the qualifications of the selectee. How about we give the governor the ability to ask for a second slate or to recommend to the selection process his nominee for rating?

I also do not particul;arly see a problem with an advise and consent aspect as at the federal level. I am not talking about the execution of the judicial function but the selection of who does that.

adelaide97 7 years, 5 months ago

There are several states with a majority of lawyer members on the nominating commission, but Kansas is the only state where the lawyer majority is selected exclusively by the bar.

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