NEWS

Manhattan Mercury: Retain justices and judges

Kansans who value an independent judiciary should reject efforts to oust certain justices of the Kansas Supreme Court.

The key targets are four justices whom Gov. Sam Brownback and his conservative allies contend are liberal activists. The justices’ foes include pro-life groups, death penalty advocates and Kansans who object to court rulings on school finance.

Targeted for ouster are Chief Justice Lawton Nuss and Associate Justices Carol Beier, Dan Biles and Marla Luckert. Also on the retention ballot but not targeted is Associate Justice Caleb Stegall, the only justice appointed by Gov. Brownback.

Death penalty advocates’ anger is understandable but misguided. The U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Kansas court’s decision that the death penalties handed down for two brothers who were convicted of genuinely brutal, multiple murders were unconstitutional. The Kansas court upheld the convictions themselves, and even if the death penalties hadn’t been reinstated, those criminals would have spent their entire lives in prison.

Abortion foes remain outraged that Kansas courts in several cases have upheld women’s right to an abortion. These groups don’t understand or reject the point of an independent judiciary. They don’t want impartial courts; they want courts that will support their positions.

Former Gov. Mike Hayden, a Republican, has said, “You can’t judge the court on a single case because they’ve ruled on 1,100 since the chief justice came in. When you look at that whole volume of work, they’ve been upheld 99.5 percent of the time, and that’s a stellar record worthy of retention.”

We wholeheartedly agree. These justices are targeted because they are doing their jobs. They are ruling according to the Constitution and the law, not according to their political beliefs, connections or political winds.

Kansas judges are and must continue to be selected based on their qualifications, not their politics. Objective evaluations of Kansas judges by lawyers, professors and legal experts can be found at kansasjudgereview.org.

Our judiciary is independent by design. That principle is precious and must be preserved.

Vote ‘Yes’ to retain these justices.

Read the rest of the Mercury's editorial.