Vote Planned on Impeachment Bill; JAS Decries ‘Attacks on Courts’

Capitol-from-NW

BULLETIN: A legislative committee debate over judicial impeachment legislation in Kansas was postponed until Thursday, the Associated Press said. 

A Kansas Senate Committee was planning to vote today on a proposal to expand the grounds for impeaching state Supreme Court justices, and an Associated Press article quoted Justice at Stake about cascading political attacks on the courts there.

“The attacks on the courts in Kansas have definitely been coming faster and more furious than in other states,” said Debra Erenberg, JAS director of state affairs. “It just seems like the Legislature has been throwing everything it can think of at the courts.”

The expanded grounds for impeachment would include any judicial effort to “usurp” the authority of legislators. Justice at Stake has called the bill “clearly unconstitutional” (see Gavel Grab). It comes as conservative legislators bridle at court decisions that displease them, including orders on funding of public education, and it is “part of an intensified effort in red states to reshape courts still dominated by moderate judges from earlier administrations,” according to the AP.

A Republican sponsor of the measure, state Sen. Dennis Pyle, characterized the legislation as strengthening impeachment, a rarely used “tool” to question judges who overturn new legislation.  “Maybe it needs to be oiled up a little bit or sharpened a little bit,” he said.