Archive for Sunday, June 30, 2013

Editorial: Nominations closed

A process sold as a way to make Kansas Court of Appeals appointments more accountable to the public now is being almost entirely closed to public view or public input.

June 30, 2013


Critics of the way judges are appointed to the Kansas Court of Appeals were relentless in their contention that the process was controlled by too small a group of Kansans. The fact that five members of the nine-member Supreme Court Nominating Commission are elected by attorneys across Kansas tainted the system, they said, giving an elite group in the state too much control over a process that should be more accountable to the people.

So, without putting their opinion to any kind of public vote, Kansas legislators threw out that system and put the “process” of selecting judges for the state’s second highest court almost entirely in the hands of one person: the governor, now Gov. Sam Brownback, who has announced his intention to close most of the court selection process to public scrutiny.

Last week, Brownback’s office confirmed that it had received “a number of applications” for the newly created 14th position on the Court of Appeals but indicated that neither a list of applicants or a list of finalists for the job would be released to the public. The only name that apparently will be released is the name of the governor’s choice, which then will be forwarded to the Kansas Senate for almost-certain confirmation.

This process is a stark contrast to the 30-year-old practice of the judicial nominating commission, which released a list of everyone nominated by themselves or others for a court appointment. After interviewing and considering those seeking an appointment, the commission would make public a list of three nominees it was sending to the governor, who picked his or her appointee from that list. Throughout the process, the public was informed and had the ability to comment on those being considered for the key court position. Now, the only opportunity the public has to influence the process is at the very end, after the governor has announced his appointment and before his appointee is considered for confirmation by the Kansas Senate, a group that is elected but may or may not be more responsive to the people of Kansas than to narrower political interests.

The only reason this closed process isn’t also used to select new members of the Kansas Supreme Court is that making that change would have required an amendment to the Kansas Constitution rather than the simpler statutory change that altered the Court of Appeals appointment process. However, Kansans need to be aware that legislative leaders are working hard on a system that would make Supreme Court appointments subject to the same kind of closed, politically vulnerable process that now rules the Court of Appeals.

This system is not more democratic, more open or in any way, better for the state of Kansas. If lawmakers think there are too many attorneys on the nominating commission, they should change the makeup of the commission, not throw out a system that has worked well in Kansas for decades.


somebodynew 4 years, 6 months ago

But you don't have total control if you have a commission, and a dictator wants/has to have total control. And since he already controls the Legislature it is just a 'rubber stamp' for his appointee. Be prepared Kansas, this is going to be pretty shocking when he names his person. That is part of the reason for not releasing any names - hold down the comments until it is too late.

Michael LoBurgio 4 years, 6 months ago

Kansas the new banana republic!

banana republics don't have checks and balances.

Joe Hyde 4 years, 6 months ago

18 months to go before we can rid ourselves of this grinning megalomaniac.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

This is almost identical to how ALEC operates.

ALEC is composed of nine task forces–(1) Public Safety and Elections, (2) Civil Justice, (3) Education, (4) Energy, Environment and Agriculture, (5) Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development, (6) Telecommunications and Information Technology, (7) Health and Human Services, (8) Tax and Fiscal Policy and (9) International Relations–each comprised of “Public Sector” members (legislators) and “Private Sector” members (corporations and interest groups).

Each of these task forces, which serve as the core of ALEC’s operations, generate model legislation that is then passed on to member lawmakers for introduction in their home assemblies. According to ALEC promotional material, each year member lawmakers introduce an average of 1,000 of these pieces of legislation nationwide, 17 percent of which are enacted. For 2009, ALEC claimed a total of 826 pieces of introduced legislation nationwide, 115 of which were passed into law–slightly below the average at 14 percent. ALEC does not offer its model legislation for public inspection.

ALEC refused to comment on any aspect of the material covered here.

More and more:

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

I question whether or not it is legal to design state legislation in this ALEC manner. Of course this explains why 12 -14 states are proceeding in an identical fashion.

ksbison 4 years, 6 months ago

41 elected representative of the people of Kansas will get input on the nominee. The old system allowed 9 people (5 of them representatives of trial lawyers, 4 of them representatives of the people) to select judges behind closed doors.

What does it matter if they release the list of who applied? Does President Obama release the names of everyone he considers for judicial appointments?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

People in Kansas want to know. Face it politicians have some established history of putting politics before substance thus we get political decisions coming from the courts.

ksbison 4 years, 6 months ago

If Kansans don't like the judges the Gov nominates and Senate confirms, there is an electoral solution, since the Gov and Senators can be voted out. Unless you happen to be a lawyer, you have no way to fire 5/9 of the Nominating Commission.

riverdrifter 4 years, 6 months ago

Address the question at hand, please: Why the secrecy?

oldbaldguy 4 years, 6 months ago

the old system let the public know who was applying/nominated and went up to the governor for confirmation. i suspect the interviews were open to the public as well, they are at district court level. i would like to know who it is so i can communicate with my government my approval or displeasure. the old system worked.

Lynn Grant 4 years, 6 months ago

ksbison you are correct there is an electoral solution but the time frame on that doesn't help the issues at hand. We have to wait until November 2016 to vote on senators and 17 more months before we can hope to rid ourselves of the king. They can sure do a lot more damage in that time, leaving newly elected legislators (hopefully) with a bunch of junk to rectify thus wasting their time by having to dismantle his lordship's failed experiment.

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