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.


Armored_One 1 year, 2 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.


Larry Sturm 1 year, 2 months ago

More corruption from Brownback and the corporations.


oldbaldguy 1 year, 2 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.


right_down_the_middle 1 year, 2 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?


Agnostick 1 year, 2 months ago

Aren't these appellate judges subject to regular retention votes at the voting machine? If you don't "like" a particular judge... you vote not to retain them. Or am I thinking of something else?


conlawgrad 1 year, 2 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.


William Weissbeck 1 year, 2 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?


Alyosha 1 year, 2 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.


Centerville 1 year, 2 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.


markoo 1 year, 2 months ago

Yet another shining example of what's wrong with the Wingnuts in charge of our state:

“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.”

Umm, Jimbo, we're not wanting to elect you or any other Congressman to effectively elect partisan Judges by proxy in your "image". We want nonpartisan judges that interpret and apply the law in the most unbiased manner as possible. The current system does a much better job than the one you nuts are proposing.

But we all know what this is about, and I wish you Congressmen along with Brownback would stop dancing around it and just be honest with us - you're being held accountable for underfunding the school system. And rather than comply with the order passed down to you by the current courts - you want to change/manipulate the system in your favor so you do not have to comply.

It's pretty pathetic, and I can only hope the constituents in Kansas are awake enough to stop this from happening.


toe 1 year, 2 months ago

This change is long over due.


Orwell 1 year, 2 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.


KNUCKLEDRAGGER 1 year, 2 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


Hardhawk1 1 year, 2 months ago

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


lawrenceguy40 1 year, 2 months ago

Excellent news!

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


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