Archive for Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Senate advances judicial selection bill

March 12, 2013


The Kansas Senate advanced a bill Tuesday changing the way judges are chosen for the state Court of Appeals and giving the governor more say in who sits on the bench.

The measure would abolish an attorney-dominated nominating commission that now screens applicants for the Court of Appeals and submits the names of three finalists to the governor, who makes the appointment without Senate confirmation. The bill would scrap that process, giving governors the authority to make their own appointments, subject to Senate confirmation.

Senators gave the measure first-round approval Tuesday. The bill has already cleared the House, and Senate passage on a final vote expected today would send the bill to Gov. Sam Brownback.

The Senate previously approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would give the governor new authority to name judges to the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. The House has yet to take action on the amendment, which if approved by two-thirds of its members would be placed on the August 2014 primary election ballot.

Senate Vice President Jeff King said he continued to meet with members of the Kansas Bar Association about the proposed changes in hopes of finding a compromise. The bar association currently appoints five of the nine members of the nominating commission, which critics say gives too much power to one organization.

King, an Independence Republican, said any deal would still have to go before voters to be ratified because the Supreme Court’s selection is specifically mentioned in the constitution.


appleaday 5 years, 1 month ago

So, how is giving one person more power better than giving one organization that same power?

Orwell 5 years, 1 month ago

False choice.

If you think all, or most, Kansas lawyers share a particular political philosophy you're very much mistaken. The lawyers in the process focus on candidates' merit/competence, just as doctors are certified on the basis of professional ability rather than philosophy. If the problem is the specific composition of the nominating commission, fix that; the Governor's desire is to throw out the baby (merit selection and an independent judiciary) and replace it with the bathwater of cronyism.

There can be no doubt the current governor and senate will be guided by the same political considerations (primarily exclusion of differing opinions) that have characterized their behavior to date.. Their plan is not a solution in search of a problem; it's a problem by itself.

sciencegeek 5 years, 1 month ago

It doesn't say much for our elected representatives when they consistently vote against the wishes of their constituents. The fact that they feel secure enough to do this repeatedly doesn't say much for eligible voters.

verity 5 years, 1 month ago

Makes one wonder, doesn't it?

One can easily go the the state website, find your legislators and email them. Quite easy. I wonder how many who come here and complain bother to do that?

Katara 5 years, 1 month ago

I think a lot of folks just give up too easily when they get the canned response by email or a form letter by mail.

xobekim 5 years, 1 month ago

We should ask ourselves why we have merit selection of judges, also called the Missouri Plan. There was a scandal called the triple play back in 1957. What happened was that Republican Governor Fred Hall lost the primary to Warren Shaw. Shaw lost the general election to George Docking. In late 1956 Chief Justice (and Hall supporter) Bill Smith became ill and resigned from the bench on December 31, 1956. On January 3, 1957 Governor Hall resigned from office. The Lieutenant Governor John McCuish, was then sworn in as Governor. He appointed Hall to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court moments later. In fact that was the only official act from Governor McCuish during his 11 day tenure as Governor.

The merit plan keeps judicial appointments at least an arms length away from politics, it prevents corruption, and deals a death blow to cronyism. The nature of a State Bar Association is different from most other organizations. In order to practice law, you have to be a member of that association. These associations know which attorneys have the professional competence to become good judges. They are not given too much power.

Reverting back to the pre-1958 method of selecting judges is a bad idea in all respects.

Grump 5 years, 1 month ago

While I abhor abandoning the merit selection process in favor of what promises to be a right-wing partisan fiasco, part of what you say is not factually not correct. A licensed lawyer in Kansas does not have to be a member of the Kansas Bar Association. Many are not.

Orwell 5 years, 1 month ago

But the Kansas Bar Association has no formal role in the judicial selection process. Instead, the KBA's role in the discussion has been to represent the consensus of Kansas lawyers – of a wide range of philosophies – that the current system results in a fair, competent, independent judiciary. Most lawyers know their clients would be better off before a fair, capable judge of any political philosophy rather than a judge whose only "qualification" is a commitment to rubber-stamp the governor's wishes.

The right wing's opposition to the current system is that it keeps them from stacking the deck in court. The complaints about lawyer involvement in the current system is a straw man, flowing either from ignorance or from dishonesty

Katara 5 years, 1 month ago

A lot of Constitutional amendments from this Legislature and all over them are giving the governor a lot of power.

Is Brownback expecting to be Governor for Life?

Katara 5 years, 1 month ago

Yes, it is. However, you miss the point - the fact that lots of Constitutional amendments are coming from this Legislature and they give the Governor more power.

Katara 5 years, 1 month ago

My humor detector is fine. It is my sarcasm meter that is off caliber.

Plus, I have been advised no dark sarcasm in the forum.

UneasyRider 5 years, 1 month ago

Yes we must not forget. this governor wants nothing like laws and some courts in the way of his total power grab. After all his god and the Kochs, seems they are one and the same, told him what he must do. Can't have a minor thing like the courts standing in his way.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 1 month ago

Just out of curiosity, as this will mean a change to the state Constitution, will this not have to go to a general referendum and be voted on by the entire state?

Orwell 5 years, 1 month ago

Changing the selection of Supreme Court justices would require a constitutional amendment via public vote. The Governor is about to sign a bill that will change the process for judges of the Court of Appeals without a public vote, since that use of the merit selection process isn't in the state constitution.

Greg Cooper 5 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, has to pas two-thirds of the House, then goes to public referendum.

Guess that is where we'll get a reading on the next general election.

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