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Archive for Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Kansas House panel passes judicial selection change

January 23, 2013, 8:34 p.m. Updated January 24, 2013, 7:49 p.m.

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— A proposal favored by some conservative Republicans to give Kansas governors and lawmakers more power over appointments to the state’s appellate courts cleared a legislative committee Wednesday.

The measure would amend the Kansas Constitution to allow governors to appoint whomever they choose to the state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, subject to Senate confirmation. It would scrap the statewide, attorney-led commission that now screens applications and nominates three finalists for the governor, who makes the appointment without legislative review.

For almost a decade, some Republicans — particularly conservatives — have pushed for a change, frustrated with court decisions ordering the state to increase spending on its public schools. Many abortion opponents view the state courts as too liberal on that issue and dislike the current system, and conservative Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has urged lawmakers to change it.

The House Judiciary Committee’s endorsement of the proposed change on a voice vote sent it to the full chamber for debate. It’s not clear when the House will take it up, because committee Chairman Lance Kinzer, a conservative Olathe Republican, said he needs some time to build support for it among 49 new members of the chamber.

Supporters of the measure consider the current judicial selection system undemocratic because five of the nominating commission’s nine members are attorneys elected by other attorneys, while the other four, all non-lawyers, are appointed by the governor. Kinzer said Senate confirmation of appellate court members will build public respect for them and their decisions.

“The voice of the people is heard by the elective representatives in the Legislature,” said Rep. Jim Howell, a conservative Derby Republican. “The voice of the people comes forward.”

Amending the state constitution requires approval by two-thirds majorities in both chambers and by a simple majority of voters in a statewide election. The judicial selection measure would go on the November 2014 general election ballot.

Critics of the current system contend it favors establishment attorneys and judges — particularly if they have strong ties to the Kansas Bar Association — and claim it tends to produce centrist and liberal nominees.

One of Brownback’s appointees on the judicial nominating commission told lawmakers Tuesday that members showed disdain for conservative candidates in discussing two Court of Appeals vacancies last year.

But other past and present commission members said its deliberations focus on each candidate’s experience, not politics.

Backers of the current system — itself the product of a constitutional change approved by voters in 1958 — say it has provided the state well-qualified judges.

Freshman Rep. Steven Becker, a moderate Buhler Republican and retired Reno County district judge, said he wants to preserve the ability of judges to make rulings that are correct under the law but politically unpopular.

“There should not be democracy in the selection of judges,” Becker said. “The more democracy in the judiciary, the less independence of the judges.”

Republicans have a 92-33 majority in the House, and most of the GOP members are conservatives, but it’s not clear they have the 84 votes necessary for a two-thirds majority. At least some GOP moderates are likely to join most or all Democrats in opposing the measure.

Comments

lawrenceguy40 1 year, 11 months ago

Excellent news!

Now let's get some judges who represent the real people of Kansas and not the liberal elites.

Shelley Bock 1 year, 11 months ago

Judges represent the law and fairness of the land. All you want is someone who endorses your politics. I haven't always agreed with the Court, but believe that they act in fairness and in accordance with the law.

That's what you don't want. For all the threats of tyranny that the NRA says is coming, this is the real tyranny, should the law simply become a rubber stamp for the tea bag ideas.

rtwngr 1 year, 11 months ago

I would be willing to wager you were all in on AHCA that was rammed through the U.S. Congress. I would be also willing to wager that anything President Obama does is ok by you and anyone that disagrees with him is a "tea bag". Then you come on this blog and lecture the world on tyranny. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Greg Cooper 1 year, 11 months ago

Oh, you mean the AHCA that was declared constitutional by a court not selected by the current president? That one?

Part of your problem with politics and reality is that you do not look at the whole picture, at how everything fits together. In your world, "right" is right and everything else is not.

Good for the goose, in the long run, as US history has run, is good for the gander. What you mean is that what's good for the ultra-knee-jerk party of no is good for you, and to hell with the rest of the state, or nation, or world, or however far your megalomaniacal excuse for thinking goes.

rtwngr 1 year, 11 months ago

@markoo - We don't have nonpartisan rulings now. The current judiciary is appointed by left leaning lawyers that have no interest in anything but their agenda.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

No offense, Markoo, but your definition of the judicial system is how it's supposed to work, in theory. In actuality, it doesn't work that way at all. Both sides of the political spectrum have long been engaged in activity that would cause the judiciary to "represent" their particular point of view. Brownback doing it is nothing new. You may oppose his particular proposals, as I do, but just because he is exerting influence doesn't mean he invented the practice.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

Well, you did call a previous poster an ignoramus for not understanding how the judicial process works. Then you explain how it works in theory, not in actuality. Maybe it's a small point, one that I would have let pass if the word ignoramus had been left out. Once you put in that insult, you invite others to seek inconsistencies in your posts.

Greg Cooper 1 year, 11 months ago

^jh, I know what you are saying, and, as far as the insult, you are right on. Unfortunately, the argument at hand must be separated from the verbiage, and taken on its merits. The merit of Sam and the Gang attempting to change the State Constitution is nil, and ignores the whole checks and balances thing that we have lived by for hundreds of years.

By having a group of attorneys choose judicial candidates on the merits of their judicial QUALIFICATIONS rather than their political bent, and being finally chosen by a separate entity, i.e., the governor, we enjoy a perfect check against the complete politization of the judicial selection process.

As an aside, as I have said many times, the perception of some that the judiciary leans left may be a simple case of not looking at the history of the nation. I submit that the mass of judicial decisions support the Constitution, and have done so since the inception of the nation under the Constitution. In other words, the way we have evolved seems, to me, to be the way the nation wanted to evolve.

Greg Cooper 1 year, 11 months ago

I'm interested, jh, in what you do prefer. And, please, this is not in an argumentative vein, but simply asking one whose opinion I have come to value.

Mike1949 1 year, 11 months ago

Real people . . . . . . . oh, you mean the Republican Dictators! The ones that if say do as I say, not what I do! You know, the corrupted ones in this state! Make sure you finish the job of destroying equal rights in this state, I wouldn't want the republicans to fail in their total domination of the masses!

Mike1949 1 year, 11 months ago

I always thought judges represent the law? Oh sorry, I forgot, the conservatives want to mold the law so justice is not served, just insignificant people who follow orders from political leaders. Fairness, equal rights, all the true and main values of man are thrown under the bus!

Hardhawk1 1 year, 11 months ago

Judge who puts rule of law over lowest common denominator mob mentality = liberal elite. That makes sense!

KNUCKLEDRAGGER 1 year, 11 months ago

Its ironic, the Conservatives are always the strongest advocates for preserving the Constitution. Why are we changing / amending the existing State Constitution ?
Answer - To serve the political whims of the Governor and the Legislative Branch.

Shouldn't the Judiciary be held to a different standard than politics ? They should not have to worry about lobbying from the NRA, The Unions , The ACLU, Kansans for Life , The Koch's , or any industry .
I want an impartial Judiciary , not a political hack

Orwell 1 year, 11 months ago

Sam Brownback believes an honest judge is one who, once bought, stays bought. One more step toward the tyranny of the extreme right wing.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 1 year, 11 months ago

Are you referring to his use of language or his "shout out" for the corruption of due process?

oldexbeat 1 year, 11 months ago

The anti-democratic Koch Brothers have called this change -- All power to the state == Go Brownbackistan (and their owners) There is not an original thought in the GOP Tea Party. They will go down on their knees for money, power and greed. Surprised the Kansas Chamber of Commerce hasn't spoken out on this yet -- oh, they have. Mike "Pray for the President's Death" O'Neal, and the other bald white fat men of the the Chamber are helping this along.

Centerville 1 year, 11 months ago

You won't read it in the LJW, but the Kansas Bar Association has already agreed to dispense with a lot of the current foolishness. They know the con has outlived its usefulness.

Greg Cooper 1 year, 11 months ago

And where,, pray tell, have you found this little nugget of truth? I will anxiously await your proof.

Corey Williams 1 year, 11 months ago

In reality: "KBA Reaffirms Support for Merit Selection System for Kansas Appellate Courts" http://ksbar.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=325 Unless you meant "current foolishness" to be the proposed changes to judicial selection and "con" to mean Brownback, then you would be wrong.

Alyosha 1 year, 11 months ago

It seems clear, according to the article: the goal is "to give Kansas governors and lawmakers more power over appointments to the state’s appellate courts."

In other words, to give political partisans more control over the judicial branch.

That's a mistake.

William Weissbeck 1 year, 11 months ago

Simpler solution: have the lawyer nominated, governor selected candidate confirmed by the legislature. But that's not what's at play. A wacko GOP legislature fears that someday a Democrat will be again elected as governor when the GOP finally goes too far in who they nominate for governor. Far fetched since I can't imagine the Kansas GOP going any more wacko than they already have with Brownback. And where are the Kansas lawyers? Contrary to FOX myth, lawyers are not all Democrats. In fact, in Kansas I would bet that just like the general population, they are majority GOP. But lawyers above all hate a politicized, incompetent judiciary. So where are they on this?

conlawgrad 1 year, 11 months ago

I still don't understand this "controversy". The proposed change is just the same as the federal judiciary process. Do liberals have problems with that process? I do not want lawyers choosing judges. They don't have any pressure to select the best qualified candidates so they go with the candidates that fit their ideological beliefs and force the governor of either party to go with the one that again, fits their ideological beliefs. At least with this process, there might be more pressure on lawmakers to really scrutinize the candidate and accept or reject based on that. I can see where lawmakers in this state would disagree with the governor of the same party. Look at the tax issue...they differ rather significantly.

bad_dog 1 year, 11 months ago

It's not so much a "controversy" as it is resentment of yet another power grab by the Brownback Mob. It is just another attempt to retaliate against a fellow branch of government; one that is perceived hostile or non-receptive by the ruling regime. You really believe legislators are going to select judges based purely on judicial merit as opposed to ideology, politics, cronyism and litmus tests? In this state? Can they even define "judicial merit"? A significant portion of these legislators wouldn't recognize a meritorious judicial candidate if they were standing in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. They will vote however party leadership directs them without a scintilla of background knowledge, understanding or experience. But hey, why let that stop them. That's the KS legislature's MO. Do as Sammy sez.

William Weissbeck 1 year, 11 months ago

There is a big difference in the federal system. The president has generally accepted the recommendations of each state's two senators (it works when they cooperate) to fill district court vacancies. Generally, appointment to the federal bench is viewed by both the president and the Senate as requiring the most qualified candidates. Until the GOP Senators started going retaliatory, the system mostly worked. Now, no one gets confirmed. If you believe that this governor and future governors are going to be more impartial and a better judge of qualifications than a panel of lawyers and citizens, then by all means change it. But no one is saying that the lawyers are nominating poor candidates or only their crony friends.

right_down_the_middle 1 year, 11 months ago

The modern era of "Borking" nominees, was, in fact, started by the Democrats with the nomination of Robert Bork. It is now generally accepted practice for all "advice and consent" nominations for the minority party to "grill" the nominee.

William Weissbeck 1 year, 11 months ago

Wrong. Dems had the majority in the Senate during Bork's confirmation hearings. And he received a straight up or down vote. He was combative during his testimony and Reagan's people did little to smooth things out. He lost, just like two of Nixon's nominations lost. The difference - Clarence Thomas. He got his vote and was confirmed, not filibustered. The GOP is in the minority and is using the filibuster to block votes.

William Weissbeck 1 year, 11 months ago

Retention removes only the very worst of judges and only rarely. More recently, retention has been used by far, far right groups to raise tons of money to try to defeat Iowa Supreme Court judges. Thankfully, they failed.

right_down_the_middle 1 year, 11 months ago

All one need do is review the nominating commission selections from Douglas County for our last four judicial choices. 1) a right leaning candidate has not made the list of 3 sent to the governor 2) the previous female governor made it clear a males name need not be forwarded 3) the Douglas County nominating commission is not apolitical 4) the process in Douglas County can easily be extrapolated to the Appeals Court and Supreme Court nominating committees. All that said, this is still, clearly, a political grab. But with any political grab, it is simply an attempt to make the pendulum swing from one side to the other. I have no problem with that. Just for fun, name the last Republican named to the Douglas County Bench. And if you think politics doesn't matter in judicial decisions, then why is the U.S. Supreme Court all about 5-4 votes?

oldbaldguy 1 year, 11 months ago

what comes around goes around, or is it the other way around? if ever a democrat is governor again, that person will get to select judges too. this is still better than state wide elections like Texas.

Larry Sturm 1 year, 11 months ago

More corruption from Brownback and the corporations.

Armored_One 1 year, 11 months ago

There is a fundamental cure for this nonsense.

Elect people, not for their "moral" stances, but for their ability to adhere to the law and apply it properly. Oh... wait... I forgot. I live in Kansas, and for some reason, laws based on Islam are just not right, but laws based on what He With The Pointy Hat says is perfectly fine.

Personally, were I to run for governor, the first thing funded would be the schools.

Second, law enforcement.

Third, take care of the blasted roads.

After that, maybe pay the people that passed the funding bills and deal with the rest of the nonsense left over from the previous line of fools that screwed everything up.

All this complaining about school funding and lack of results... well, since the funding has never truly been what anyone would call consistant, how's about funding it fully and completely, without strings or restrictions and let the blasted teachers do what they were hired to do.

That'd be too farking easy, I suppose. I mean, really, people that are not trained to be educators shouldn't be telling those that are how they should teach. The arrogance of people in power never ceases to amaze me. It saddens me frequently, but it rarely amazes me.

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