Views from Kansas: Senators trash Constitution
Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.
Republicans in the Kansas Senate have managed to squeeze a number of bad decisions into a short special session. Recently, they even denied a judgeship to a respected longtime public defender, Carl Folsom III, because he was once assigned to represent a man convicted of possessing child porn. Which only deepens our impression that one problem area for Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, state Sen. Molly Baumgardner and others is the U.S. Constitution.
Public defenders do more than represent their clients, who include the poor and the poorer, the odious and the innocent, none of whom they choose. They take all comers, and in doing so also defend the Constitution itself every day, with a job description clearly laid out in the Sixth Amendment right to counsel for every single person accused of a crime.
That may not sound right to you, senators, but it’s a little late to take it up with James Madison.
Baumgardner, the Louisburg Republican who led this assault on good sense, laid out in detail the number and nature of awful images allegedly found on the computer of Folsom’s former client. But this conflation of client and counselor shows a lack of either understanding of or respect for how our criminal justice system is supposed to work.
Should someone dear to Baumgardner get in legal trouble of any kind, whether like former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin or falsely accused as Kansas exoneree Lamonte McIntryre, she would no doubt engage the best lawyer she could afford; we all would. But for those without the manners to have the means, well, that’s where Folsom and his colleagues come in.
After this petty but no doubt painful kick in the pants, it’s to Folsom’s great credit that he tweeted this: “The thing about Kansans — we are resilient. Time to go help some more people.”
Gov. Laura Kelly is probably right that the real reason the Senate rejected Folsom, a KU School of Law grad and assistant federal public defender in Topeka, for the state Court of Appeals job was the never-gets-old thrill of “political games.” Wagle admitted as much when she said in a statement after the vote that Folsom had “donated to Governor Kelly’s campaign, which is indicative of his political ideology.”
When the governor nominated Folsom, who is from Tonganoxie and also teaches at KU’s law school, he said, “I am committed to the law and to applying the law as the Legislature writes it without prejudice or bias. But my passion for the law goes beyond legal reasoning or words on a page — the law is a real thing that has the capacity to change lives, for better or worse. As a Court of Appeals judge, I will always apply the law fairly and uniformly, never forgetting that the law is ultimately about people and our obligations to our fellow citizens.”
That he was seen as irreparably tainted because the FBI found images on his 2014 client’s computer that Baumgardner said “were so horrific they included penetration” is hard to believe. But whether that was an excuse or a reason, the lawmakers failed their fellow citizens in denying Folsom the job and the court his contribution.
— Originally published in The Kansas City Star