Kansas Senate Committee Approves Judicial Impeachment Bill

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BULLETIN: The Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee passed on Thursday a bill expanding grounds for impeachment of Kansas Supreme Court justices, according to Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts. Justice at Stake has called the proposal “clearly unconstitutional.”

A bill widening the grounds for impeaching Kansas Supreme Court justices was due for debate in a Senate committee today, even as its backers came under searing criticism from a Lawrence Journal-World editorial.

The bill includes as impeachment grounds a finding of discourteous conduct by justices, and any judicial attempt to usurp the authority of the legislative or executive branch. The editorial was headlined “Power Grab,” and it said the bill could upend the balance between the branches:

“Allowing the Legislature to exert that kind of control over the state’s top court represents a total breakdown in the separation of powers that is at the heart of the democratic system. The state’s courts don’t pose their own challenges to the legislative and executive branches; they respond to the concerns raised by Kansas residents. It’s the courts’ duty to give those residents an avenue to challenge the decisions of the other two branches. If the Legislature is allowed to stack the Supreme Court with supportive justices, the power of the judiciary to provide a meaningful balance of power will be lost.”

Meanwhile a Topeka Capital-Journal article reported on oral arguments held by the high court held this week in Topeka, as part of an outreach and public education effort.  A group called Kansans for Justice, which pushed unsuccessfully two years ago against retention of two justices, contended this week that some of the justices were politicking. In the fall, five justices are expected to stand for retention.