To the editor:
Gov. Brownback is again promoting a Kansas constitutional amendment to select Kansas Supreme Court Justices politically instead of our current “merit-based” process. After a three-year study in 2013, the League of Women Voters-Kansas concluded the current system provides the best basis for selecting judges independent of political considerations.
Our “merit-based” process has roots in pre-1940 Missouri after Tom Pendergast’s political machine influenced several judicial elections. Alarmed Missourians adopted a merit-based system in November 1940. This Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan has served as a model for 34 other states to fill judicial vacancies. According to www.statescourtsguide.com, 23 states use this method for their state supreme courts.
Kansans had similar alarm in 1956 when Gov. Hall, failing in his re-election attempt, resigned near the end of his term to have the lieutenant governor appoint him as a justice on the Kansas Supreme Court. Disgusted Kansans voted to amend the constitution, setting up the current “merit-based” process. It has worked well for nearly 60 years with no charges of corruption or scandal.
Brownback would have us step back 60 years and select justices as the U.S. Government does — a system so gridlocked that there are 100 vacancies in the federal court system. Only one other state, New Jersey, selects its justices in this manner, and Gov. Christie has similar gridlock. While our governor rejects most federal government policies, judicial selection is clearly the wrong one to adopt.