Editorial: Kansans Should Reject 'Short-Sighted' Change to Courts

Kansas lawmakers should bring to a halt “short-sighted” efforts by state senators to modify how state appellate judges are selected, argues a Wichita Eagle editorial.

Judicial candidates are currently vetted by a nominating commission comprised of four gubernatorial appointees, and five attorneys licensed to practice law in Kansas. A list of three names is then sent to the governor to choose from.

Gov. Sam Brownback declared earlier this year that the selection method fails “the democracy test,” the editorial notes, and wants to eliminate the judicial nominating commission.

“The commission is designed to ensure the conduct of the executive branch does not threaten the integrity of the judicial branch,” said U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Terrence O’Brien.

The editorial argues that judges who are nominated by the governor would “have to curry favor with senators” in order to be confirmed.

A Winfield Daily Courier editorial calls this determination to end Kansas’s merit-based system a tactic by conservative legislators “to punish the courts” for demanding an increase in school funding.

Kansas voters should oppose a constitutional amendment which would give power over the judiciary to the governor, it argues.

KCPT: The Local Show interviewed former state Sen. John Vratil who said that Brownback “wants to control the selection of appellate court judges.”

Vratil went on to say that Brownback fears a decision by the courts on funding for Kansas schools, leading to his desire to control who sits on the bench.

To read more about the proposed constitutional amendment to end Kansas’s system of merit selection, see Gavel Grab.

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