LJWorld: Former Kansas governors going on tour to keep partisan politics out of judicial retention election

The political battle over control of the Kansas Supreme Court will kick into high gear next week when four former governors go on a three-city tour urging voters to keep partisan politics out of judicial retention elections.

Former Republican Govs. Bill Graves and Mike Hayden will join Democrats Kathleen Sebelius and John Carlin in a series of invitation-only events in Kansas City, Mo., Topeka and Wichita.


Conservatives have been upset with the court for more than a decade, dating back to the 2005 school finance decision in the case Montoy v. Kansas, in which the court ordered the Legislature to add hundreds of millions of dollars each year to the school funding formula.

Later this month, the court will hear oral arguments in yet another school finance case in which plaintiffs again are seeking upwards of $500 million a year in additional school funding.

Conservatives have also been critical of the court over a series of death penalty cases in which the court overturned the death sentences of several convicted killers, most notably Wichita brothers Jonathan and Reginald Carr, who were convicted of a grisly mass murder in December 2000.

Brownback used that issue in his 2014 re-election campaign, arguing that Democrat Paul Davis would appoint more justices like them. He also campaigned for the defeat of two justices who were up for retention that year, Eric Rosen and Lee Johnson, who narrowly survived that election.

One of the groups that is actively raising money and campaigning against the four justices is called Kansans for Justice, which was organized by relatives of the Carr brothers’ victims.

But the controversy surrounding those decisions is only part of the political battle. In each of the last two legislative sessions, conservative lawmakers have tried unsuccessfully to pass a constitutional amendment changing the way Supreme Court justices are chosen in ways that would put more power in the hands of the governor.

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