LJ World: Push to remake Kansas Supreme Court hits backlash over governor
By John Hanna | Associated Press
TOPEKA — A push to remake the Kansas Supreme Court in the upcoming election could falter because of a political backlash against Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.
Five of the court’s seven justices are on statewide ballots that ask voters whether each justice should stay on the court for another six years. Four of those justices, each appointed by a Democratic or moderate Republican governor, are being aggressively targeted by GOP conservatives, abortion opponents and critics of rulings that overturned death sentences.
Brownback publicly supported a similar ouster campaign in 2014 that nearly removed the other two justices, amid anger over death penalty rulings. But the conservative Republican governor — who is facing voter discontent over the state’s budget problems — has refused to endorse this year’s effort, which is likely fine with one group pushing to remove the justices.
“He’s caused us a lot of headaches,” said Amy James, a spokeswoman for Kansans for Justice, a group of victims’ families angered by court rulings that overturned death sentences. “He’s actually a hurdle that we continue to have to overcome.”
Brownback can’t seek re-election because of term limits, but voters appear to be are taking out frustrations on his allies: 14 conservative GOP legislators lost their seats in the August primary, and Democrats hope to make significant gains on Nov. 8.
A group supporting the justices called Kansans for Fair Courts is running a television ad warning that removing the justices could leave the court with “Brownback clones,” because the governor could name replacements.