To the editor:
Gov. Brownback’s proposed changes to the selection of Kansas judges undermine current constitutional guarantees. In 1958, the Kansas Constitution provided a “merit system” for selecting justices of the Kansas Supreme Court. In 1972, this option was extended to district court judges. In 1977, the state Court of Appeals was formed by law, also using the merit system for selecting judges.
Our founders realized the value of forming three, co-equal but independent branches of government — executive, legislative and judicial — to assure fair and reasonable laws without any one branch of government dominating or over-exercising its constitutional powers. These “checks and balances” have served Kansas resident well. Why, then, is Gov. Brownback pushing legislators to change this very effective merit process to political appointment?
As a citizen, you have a right to a fair and impartial hearing when you go to court. You expect the judge hearing your case to uphold the law and issue a ruling free of any outside influence, including that of the governor. The best argument for maintaining our merit system was given by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy: “Judicial independence is not for judges to do as they choose, but to do as they must” (C-Span, August 2005).
We appeal to you to talk with your legislators before the 2013 legislative session starts and urge them not to pass laws that would change our current judicial selection system and put the impartiality of our judges at risk.