Across the nation, court decisions are coming under partisan attack whether in judicial elections or attempts by politicians to reshape courts to their liking, The New York Times reports from Kansas, virtually a ground zero of these attacks:
“TOPEKA, Kan. — Washington is locked in partisan warfare over control of the Supreme Court. But it is hardly the only place. Look at the states, where political attacks on judicial decisions are common and well-financed attack ads are starting to jar the once-sleepy elections for State Supreme Court seats.”
In Topeka, the article zeroes in on an effort to broaden the grounds for impeaching Kansas Supreme Court justices (see Gavel Grab) and expected efforts to dump in retention (up-or-down) elections this fall four justices “regarded as moderate or liberal.” The article also touches on big spending in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race under way — quoting Justice at Stake and Brennan Center for Justice ad spending data — and in Pennsylvania last year, a political assault on the Georgia Supreme Court and an expansion measure labeled by critics as “court-packing” in Georgia:
“Partisan conflict over courts has erupted in many of the 38 states where justices are either directly elected or, as in Kansas, face periodic retention elections, without an opposing candidate. As conservatives in Washington attempt to preserve a majority on the federal Supreme Court, politically ascendant conservatives in several states are seeking to reshape courts that they consider to be overly liberal vestiges of eras past.”
Regarding bids to reshape the Kansas courts, “This is a full-out power grab by the governor,” Ryan Wright, executive director of Kansans for Fair Courts, told the Times. Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, has called for changes to the way Kansas justices are chosen in order to create “a more democratic selection process.” The justices currently are chosen through a merit selection system.