Editorial: Impeachment antics

A bill to expand impeachment criteria in Kansas already has gone too far and, for the good of the state, should go no further.

Lawrence Journal-World opinion section

Lawrence Journal-World opinion section

March 24, 2016


Tuesday’s narrow passage by the Kansas Senate should be the end of the road for damaging and probably unconstitutional legislation that would set broad new criteria for the impeachment of Kansas Supreme Court justices, the governor and other state-level elected officials.

The measure now goes to the House, which should decline to consider the legislation.

The sponsors of Senate Bill 439 claim that their intention is to clarify the checks and balances among the three branches of state government, but the bill, instead, is a transparent legislative power grab.

The Kansas Constitution allows state officials to be “removed from office by impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” What legislators are attempting to do — without amending the constitution — is to further “define” what qualifies as “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Among the more ridiculous offenses they say should be covered by that umbrella are “exhibiting discourteous conduct” in their professional dealings or “exhibiting personal misbehavior or misconduct.” The meat of this measure, however, lies in the addition of “attempting to usurp the power of the legislative or executive branch of government” as grounds for impeachment. That provision is a barely veiled warning to Supreme Court justices who have declared the state’s school finance system unconstitutional.

And who gets to decide whether justices or state officials are guilty of any of these crimes? Members of the Kansas Legislature. The House has “the sole power to impeach,” officials who then are tried by the Senate, which can remove them from office with a two-thirds majority vote.

The offenses so broadly defined in this legislation would allow legislators to remove any number of justices or state officials and replace them with people who shared the political agenda of the legislative majority. Sen. Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, has repeatedly contended that the independent courts in Kansas illustrate the principle that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” while ignorantly or willfully failing to acknowledge that the impeachment bill invites exactly that kind of corruption within the Legislature.

The Senate bill initially was directed at Supreme Court justices and appointed district judges. In an apparent effort to disguise their attack on the courts, legislators subsequently added state-level elected officials to the bill and dropped the district judges. But the real target of the legislation is clear: the Kansas Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the constitutional separation of powers that is basic to state government would be collateral damage.

Even if this bill is passed, it’s unlikely it would pass constitutional muster. With that in mind, the supporters of this bill probably were more interested in making a point than in making good law. For better or worse, they’ve made their point. It’s time to let this issue die.


Michael Kort 1 year, 12 months ago

Impeach the Ks. Senate and House for failing to comply with separation of powers act & for acts against the Ks.Supreme Court .

The senate and the house need to be impeached and removed form office or run out of town on a rail and never let to come back into this state again.

The fascist ideals of the republican senate and house members are not what Kansas needs but they might be able to find exile in Cuba .where fascist principals are still alive and well !

Listen, I think that i can hear Fidel and Raul Castro calling yot on the breeze .

George Andrews 1 year, 12 months ago

Get rid of Gov Sam Browncrack as well. He will leave skid marks on Kansas forever.

Joe Loveland 1 year, 12 months ago

I agree with both of you... I live close to the Kansas border and we get a lot of people from Kansas coming our way. This is a Repub experiment that has gone dangerously wrong. The state is a mess, and their trickle down economics have cost the state millions! They cant pay their bills, so they want to take it away from education etc.
This is proof to anyone with a mind that Repub trickle down economics only makes the rich even richer and costs the avg citizen millions !!!

Paul R Getto 1 year, 12 months ago

Having second thoughts about Brownie, Sir?

Richard Crank 1 year, 12 months ago

Not just the Castros, dictatorships of the left AND the right seek total control of the government as a way of getting total control of the people. Every newspaper in the state should be pointing this out repeatedly. I never in my almost-63-years of wildest dreams and worst nightmares had visions of Kansas becoming what this governor and legislature have forced us into. It's easy to blame "the voters" -- lots of online commenters do -- but what Gov. Brownback, having been reelected and with no need to pretend moderation, proposed and the legislators acceded to, and then even exceeded in their zealotry, is a government monstrosity that I hope the voters never saw coming. We're stuck with this for now but we can take back the government with the next election and that's something the legislature cannot stop.

Joe Loveland 1 year, 12 months ago

Lets hope enough people in Kansas wake up and see this for what it is. Sadly I see a lot of them defending these idiots

Harry Haff 1 year, 12 months ago

This is just another in a long line of KS legislative disasters ever since the 'people" elected Brownback and his cronies. people get the government they deserve generally and the people of KS have no one to blame but themselves for this string of failures since Brownback was first elected. This is what happened when conservatives are in charge. And this debacle will be repeated on a national scale if the GOP wins more federal elections this November.

Steve King 1 year, 11 months ago

"Sen. Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, has repeatedly contended that the independent courts in Kansas illustrate the principle that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” while ignorantly or willfully failing to acknowledge that the impeachment bill invites exactly that kind of corruption within the Legislature."

We get your point Holmes. So we'll vote you out in November.

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