Commentary: Kansas Bill Would Remove Check on Legislators

Kansas_quarter,_reverse_side,_2005Kansas legislators pushing a bill to expand the grounds for impeachment of state Supreme Court justices are effectively “moving to intimidate and eliminate the last legal check on their ideology,” commentator Jason Probst writes in The Hutchinson News.

Approved by a Senate panel last week (see Gavel Grab), the proposal has stirred up a hornet’s nest of criticism in state editorial and op-ed pages. Probst’s column goes further than many others to note that a prominent Republican legislator, Judiciary Chairman Jeff King, opposed the bill.

King reminded his colleagues last week of a different bill passed by the legislature two years ago to remove from the state Supreme Court the authority to name chief district judges. The Supreme Court struck down the law, finding it unconstitutional.

The judicial impeachment bill now in the Senate (Bill 439) includes as a grounds for removing state justices any effort to usurp the authority of the legislature or executive branch.

“If the Supreme Court had impeachment ability over the Legislature the way it’s stated in Senate Bill 439,” King said last week, “the Supreme Court could have started impeachment proceedings against every single person that voted on that bill in good conscience and good faith, exercising their duties to the best of their ability just because of how we voted.”

Probst concludes his column by saying, “Checks exist for good reason – to contain those who want to solidify and grow their power. Any effort to alter or undo those checks – or to give one branch undue power – should be viewed with skepticism and rejected.”