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Opinion

Opinion

Editorial: More democratic?

Efforts to change the way judges are appointed to the Kansas Court of Appeals and the Kansas Supreme Court don’t feel more democratic.

March 14, 2013

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Legislation to change the way judges are appointed to the Kansas Court of Appeals apparently is on its way to becoming law in Kansas.

The bill eliminates the current process by which an appointed nominating committee reviews applications and recommends three nominees to the governor. Under the new process, the governor will have the exclusive right to appoint anyone he or she chooses, regardless of the nominee’s qualifications for the job, as long as that choice is confirmed by the Kansas Senate.

Critics of the current system were focused on the fact that a majority of the nominating committee were attorneys elected by fellow members of the Kansas Bar. The system, they said was too dominated by attorneys, too undemocratic. However, rather than adjust the membership of the nominating committee to address the specific problem, legislators have chosen to throw that system out and replace it with the appointment-confirmation system that injects new political influence into the system and could cause delays in filling vacant judgeships.

If Kansans want to see how the new system will work, they can look at an appointment process that currently is causing concern in Sedgwick County. The county usually elects its district judges, but because a district judge was appointed to the Court of Appeals, Gov. Brownback now is responsible for filling a vacancy. The traditional practice for filling such seats is to have representatives of the local bar take applications and recommend three nominees to the governor. The names of both the applicants and the three finalists are made public. However, Brownback decided not to follow that practice. Candidates for the judgeship were asked to file their applications directly with the governor’s office. After the March 1 deadline for applications, it was announced that 15 candidates had applied but that their names would not be made public. There apparently will be no transparency to the process leading to the governor’s selection.

This is the kind of closed process that likely will become common practice for appointments to the Kansas Court of Appeals.

The Appeals Court change apparently is a done deal. Because the selection of appeals judges is set out in statute, legislators can change it without a public vote. However, Kansans may have an opportunity to weigh in on a measure that would apply the same appointment system to the Kansas Supreme Court. Changing the Supreme Court appointment system would require a constitutional amendment, which already has passed the Kansas Senate. If it is approved by two-thirds of the Kansas House, it will go to the voters. Interestingly, the Senate bill sets the public vote on the amendment for August 2014, during a primary election that likely will draw only a small voter turnout. If the opponents of the current court selection system are looking to be more “democratic,” why wouldn’t they put the measure on a general election ballot when it would draw as many voters as possible?

The whole process on both of these proposals leaves the impression that the goal is not to make the selection of high court judges more democratic but to concentrate the power for making those choices with fewer people who may use those appointments for political paybacks or to pursue political agendas.

Comments

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

Vote out the nut jobs in the upcoming elections including ALEC Brownback no matter how much he spends.

The entire beltway congressional crew are rt wing nut jobs if not Nazi in their politics. Why is it they cannot get voted out?

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sciencegeek 1 year, 1 month ago

Granted, the LJW endorsed this disaster. Many now have "buyer's remorse", not only for Brownback but for the radicals in the legislature. But instead of rubbing that in, could someone, somewhere, suggest a way to rein in these nutjobs? Right or wrong, all of us are going to pay for this lunacy.

The only thing I can think of that might get their attention is a whole lot of people raising he** and promising not to re-elect them. But that would take effort that few are willing to expend. Any other suggestions, anyone?

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nugget 1 year, 1 month ago

It's called eating one's own dog food.

This paper endorsed the current governor so you're simply reaping what you sow. Check out this new "progressive" sales tax increase getting shoved down our neck. We get it: tax the working class to pay for the governor's tax increases. Someone has to pay and damned if it'll be corporations that are already getting subsidized.

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consumer1 1 year, 1 month ago

Head line, "Efforts to change the way judges are appointed to the Kansas Court of Appeals and the Kansas Supreme Court don’t feel more democratic".

It don't ??

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appleaday 1 year, 1 month ago

And don't cry later on when a Democratic governor gets to use these same powers being put in place now.

I have a lot of Republican friends and relatives suffering from buyers' remorse right now.

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markoo 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm sorry, Dolph, but you reap what you sow. You want Republicans as a whole, then you get the entire package including the nuts on the extremist side. Unfortunately that's exactly who controls our state.

So cry me a river and stop your complaining. This is the crazy you ultimately vote for and deserve.

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BABBOY 1 year, 1 month ago

This bill is just another power play by the conservative right. I agree with the three first posters above. Too many people BLINDLY voted for these people and now they are just starting to figure out what a bunch of bullies they are.

The conservatives are pretty good at what they do. They tell you this is about democracy, but forget to tell you how they structure things. If this bill is pasted, you will never see another moderate judge again. You will see phony baloney law professors that sing the Koch industries song and dance that know nothing about the law but know the right buzz words to impress the conservatives where they become judges to flip everything up.

Those idiots are easy to spot. Just look at their grants and funding on their pet projects and who they speak for in seminars....but you will also note they have not seen the bright light of court room and could never actually practice law.....not what you want in a judge as a judge needs to sort of understand what is going on...

I point this out because one of those idiots likes to comment on this issue and pretend he is a real attorney…..

LOL

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 1 month ago

"Interestingly, the Senate bill sets the public vote on the amendment for August 2014, during a primary election that likely will draw only a small voter turnout. If the opponents of the current court selection system are looking to be more “democratic,” why wouldn’t they put the measure on a general election ballot when it would draw as many voters as possible? "

It's worse than that-- it's been set for the primary because they believe that conservative Republicans will have a higher turnout in primary elections than other voters, since independents and Democrats will have no reason to vote in closed Republican primaries.

Just another example of the inherent dishonesty and lack of integrity within the Grand Ole Plutocracy.

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Keith 1 year, 1 month ago

I see the editorial staff is crying their crocodile tears again. Your newspaper endorsed and supported the governor in his efforts to get elected. Now just sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labors.

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Paul R Getto 1 year, 1 month ago

The whole process on both of these proposals leaves the impression that the goal is not to make the selection of high court judges more democratic but to concentrate the power for making those choices with fewer people who may use those appointments for political paybacks or to pursue political agendas.

Do not gripe now, Sir. You promoted this Bozo when he ran and he is doing what his ALEC buddies told him. I assume you voted for the Gov. You going to join the 30% and do it again?

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