I was pleased to read Scott Burkhart’s well-phrased comment (Public Forum, July 23): “When our leaders step in and work to manipulate this system (our “rule of law”), although one group might think it fair, we move dangerously close to totalitarianism where those in power make the rules and call the shots.”
Our current Legislature and the governor have brought us, in Scott’s phrase, “dangerously close to totalitarianism.” By eliminating our long-standing system of nonpartisan judicial selection for our Court of Appeals and threatening to do the same to our state Supreme Court, they “manipulate this system” for partisan political reasons.
Our nonpartisan merit system for selecting judges for the Supreme Court was established by our Republican Legislature in 1958. It has worked very well, producing judges that are both competent and fair. Since merit and judicial temperament rather than political ideology are emphasized, extremists of either left or right are rarely nominated. The system worked so well that the same plan was adopted when our Court of Appeals was created by the Republican Legislature in the mid-1970s.
In 2009, however, the absence of right-wing extremists on our appellate courts led the group that has captured control of our current Republican party to mount a campaign to eliminate our nonpartisan selection system. They want judges that can be depended upon to support their positions, regardless of how extreme or unconstitutional they may be. Our current rulers want to both “make the rules and call the shots.” Competence and fairness of judges are secondary concerns, at best, to them. Scott aptly calls that totalitarianism.
Both Republicans and Democrats supported our nonpartisan system and, for the first two years of the Brownback regime, were able to fight off the attempts to repoliticize our courts. To overcome this resistance and to generally stifle all opposition, the extremists pulled off a coup in the August 2012 Republican primary, flushing most of the moderate Republicans out of the House and Senate. Thus, they were able to subvert nonpartisan selection for the Court of Appeals. They threaten to do the same to the Supreme Court.
If there is no independent judiciary to declare the “rule of law,” there will be nothing to stop the drive toward totalitarianism. Thanks, Scott, for reminding us of the danger we face.