Sixty-one percent of Kansas voters, including majorities of Republicans and of Democrats, oppose rewriting the state Constitution to change the process for choosing Kansas Supreme Court justices, a new poll commissioned by Justice at Stake showed.
“Kansans don’t want to tamper with their constitution,” Bert Brandenburg, JAS executive director, said in a press release on Wednesday. “They want their judges chosen based on their qualifications, not partisan politics.
“They’re not comfortable vesting so much power in the hands of a governor, even one that they like,” Brandenburg added. “They’d rather see judges go through an interview process that identifies the best candidates before, not after, the governor makes his pick.”
Under the state’s existing merit selection system, a nominating commission screens candidates for Supreme Court judgeships and recommends finalists to the governor for appointment.
JAS issued the poll findings as the Kansas legislature was beginning hearings on a major change proposed to merit selection.
When Gov. Sam Brownback unveiled his legislative agenda this week, he called for revising the way top judges are chosen, according to a Kansas.com article. He urged adoption of a proposal providing for direct election of judges for high-level courts or appointment by the governor, subject to Senate confirmation. “Either (system) passes the democracy test that the current system fails,” he said.
Brownback is a Republican. House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Democrat, countered, “He is now engineering a far-right takeover of the judicial branch in an effort to solidify his absolute unfettered control of Kansas government.” Republicans control the executive and legislative branches.