Kansas Rural Center: Kansas' crossroads: which way?
Paul Johnson, Kansas Rural Center - Published in the Emporia Gazette
Kansas is at a crossroad in regards to an independent judiciary.
Several legislative attempts — in the past four years — have been made to politicize the selection of Kansas Supreme Court justices after the voters in the 1960’s established in the Kansas constitution an independent, nonpartisan process of selection. The plan now is to vote out — through retention elections — four of the seven sitting Kansas Supreme Court justices this fall. The most unpopular Governor in Kansas history could then select four new justices in the last two years of his term.
The Kansas Supreme Court, and their peers across the country, has increasingly been asked to step in to decide divisive issues that lawmakers can’t or won’t reconcile. Then whoever disagrees with their decision attacks the court for being activist. The court’s purpose is to make decisions based on the law and the facts of the cases before it. To politicize the appointment of the judges by giving a governor more power in their appointment presents a Constitutional threat to separation of powers and weakens the judicial process.
Furthermore, the Justices are bound by state judicial canon that they act in a manner consistent with an independent judiciary. In other words, they can’t campaign or politic on their own behalf like politicians. But state law currently does NOT require those groups spending thousands of dollars to urge a no retention vote, to report who they are, who they represent, or what they are spending.
A fair and impartial court system hangs in the balance in Kansas in the Nov. 8 election. Voting to retain the Supreme Court Justices would ensure the judicial process remains strong.