Kansas courts could be “in the crosshairs” next year when five of seven state Supreme Court justices, and six of 14 judges on the state Court of Appeals will be on the Election Day ballot, attorney F. James Robinson Jr. writes in a Wichita Eagle op-ed. He cites Bankrolling the Bench: The New politics of Judicial Elections 2013-14, co-authored by Justice at Stake and two partner organizations.
That recently released report “chose Kansas’ 2014 Supreme Court retention race as one of the worst examples of politicians exploiting these elections for political gain,” Robinson maintains. And already, the Kansas courts are under assault from elected legislators, with one measure having the potential to strip the entire judicial branch of its funding.
A recent Defense Research Institute poll found majority, bipartisan opposition to politicians’ appeals to slash court funds, strip courts of certain authority or dump judges based on disagreement with a court ruling. Robinson finds encouragement in these findings:
“That should make us stop and think. In Kansas, our nonpartisan retention elections were approved by commonsense voters almost 60 years ago after a political scandal. They were intended to insulate our highest courts from political pressure. They can still work well.
“But that will only happen if Kansans stand up and oppose politicizing the next retention election. Let’s make it clear to our elected officials that we won’t tolerate political tampering with our courts.”