John Carlin: Vote 'Yes' on Judicial Retention
As I hope many Kansans know, there is an organized and heavily financed effort to throw out four of the five Justices up for retention on the Kansas Supreme Court and six Judges on the Court of Appeals. Frustrated by the Court supporting the Kansas Constitution on proper funding of public education, the effort is driven by special interests who see an opportunity to lock the courts into a far, far right position for as many as thirty years. Our current system of selecting judges based upon merit has served us well for sixty years. The retention clause in our system is there as a safeguard but, fortunately, has never been needed. We have a 100% record of retaining our Judges because the current merit system has brought quality and balance to the bench.
So if the system is so good, what really is the problem? First, the Kansas Legislature, working with the Governor, successfully changed the law for the appointment of Court of Appeals Judges. They moved away from merit selection to allowing the Governor to appoint whomever he wants, subject to Senate confirmation. Second, the merit selection system for the Supreme Court is now in control of the Governor. He has made four citizen appointments to the nine member Merit Selection Commission and, by neglect of the Kansas Bar allowed, in essence, the appointment of the fifth and final lawyer to chair and have control of the Commission.
The Carr brothers case out of Wichita, one of the most gruesome multiple murder cases in Kansas, is being used to drive emotions and create opposition to retention. This happened in 2000, and there has never been any doubt the brothers were guilty. They were sentenced to death. As is usual, the long delay in carrying out the death penalty has made a very painful path to closure for the family and friends of the victims. The dispute between our Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court was over a technicality, but there has never been any doubt that the Carr brothers will die on death row.
The bottom line and key point is: why would we oppose retention when opposition is totally unjustified? The current Justices have a superb record. They are not opposed to the death penalty, as some charge. They have upheld the constitutionality of the Act on several occasions, including recently with the Robinson case. But the major thing to know, understand, and spread is that if special interest groups are successful in throwing out these judges, it will politicize the courts and assure that merit selection will be replaced by money and political influence. We will leave behind our historical fairness where individual citizens' rights are protected, free from the influence of money and political pressure. VOTE YES ON RETENTION.