Proposal for change in selection process receives support

? A group known mostly for trying to cut state spending is helping promote a Kansas University professor’s proposal to require Senate confirmation of Kansas Supreme Court justices.

“We are allies on this issue,” Alan Cobb, executive director of the Kansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity, said Tuesday.

Americans for Prosperity and the KU chapter of the Federalist Society are hosting several policy receptions featuring law school professor Stephen J. Ware, who recently released a study critical of the way Kansas Supreme Court justices are selected.

Ware said Kansas’ selection process is too secretive and dominated by lawyers.

Justices are appointed to the Kansas Supreme Court by the governor from a list of three candidates submitted by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. That commission includes nine members, five of whom are appointed by Kansas lawyers.

Ware said his research shows no other state gives lawyers that much influence over the nominating process.

Ware advocates a system where the governor would nominate a candidate, whose appointment would then be subject to confirmation by the state Senate – similar to the process used by the federal government in selecting federal judges.

Cobb said that method fits with his organization’s efforts for a “better and more effective and more accountable government.”

Americans for Prosperity has supported laws and constitutional amendments to restrict state spending. Americans for Prosperity was founded by billionaire David Koch, who is an executive vice president of Wichita-based Koch Industries, was the Libertarian Party candidate for vice president of the United States in 1980 and is a supporter of anti-tax efforts.

The Federalist Society is an influential legal group that espouses conservative and libertarian points of view.

Some lawmakers have called for more legislative input in the appointment of justices after the court in 2005 ordered the Legislature to come up with more money for public schools.

Cobb disagreed with the court’s decision in that case, saying it was an example “of a judiciary overstepping its bounds.”

But, he said, the need to change the selection process “was not about one decision.”

Ware will be speaking on the selection of Kansas Supreme Court justices at policy receptions today in Overland Park and next week in Topeka, Dodge City, Garden City and Great Bend.