PRESS RELEASE: Former Governors Call for Retention of Supreme Court Justices: "Keep Politicians Out of the Courts"
KANSAS CITY-TOPEKA-WICHITA: 9/6 – 9/7 2016. Four former Kansas governors boarded a bus today to raise awareness for fair and impartial courts in Kansas. The governors are responding to a series of unprecedented political attacks on the courts. They are announcing their support for the retention of the five justices to the Kansas Supreme Court at three news conferences, highlighting the need to keep politicians out of the courts. The bipartisan coalition of former governors includes Republicans Bill Graves and Mike Hayden and Democrats Kathleen Sebelius and John Carlin. Governor Mark Parkinson supports the effort to retain the justices but was unable to join the tour.
The governors are coming together to defend the state’s judicial system because of their shared belief that Kansas courts must remain fair and impartial so that the rule of law and the constitutional rights of every Kansan are protected. The governors agree that retention of the five justices to the Kansas Supreme Court is the most important state issue on voters’ ballots this November, and they want to encourage every Kansan to complete their ballot and vote yes to retain Kansas judges and justices.
The two-day media tour includes stops in Kansas City and Topeka on Tuesday and Wichita on Wednesday. The governors are participating in roundtable discussions in each location to discuss the recent political attacks on the court by Gov. Sam Brownback and his legislative allies, which has not served Kansans well. During discussions moderated by Dr. Reggie Robinson, Professor at the University of Kansas School of Public Affairs and Administration, the governors said they object to the increasingly personal attacks on the justices who are up for retention.
“As former governors we understand the unique roles of the three branches of government,” Graves said. “We may not have always agreed with them but we respected that the judicial branch is a non-political branch accountable to the constitution. The courts provide a critical check and balance on the other two branches and we want to keep this constitutional balance.”
The governors expressed frank concern about the upcoming retention election. “These races usually go unnoticed by most voters,” Sebelius said. “But, these judges and justices have faced an unprecedented series of attacks – many personal – and they are unable to defend themselves. The politicians who are attacking the courts are doing so because they want to replace these judges with ones more concerned with a political agenda than with protecting the Kansas Constitution and the rights given to every Kansan in our constitution. The threat to fair and impartial courts has never been greater.”
The governors said they have the unique perspective of leading the state and the experience of appointing justices to the Kansas Supreme Court. “We knew that we had to appoint our best and our brightest to the court, then stay out of their way,” Hayden said.
Former Governor Carlin added, “If that changes in this retention election and politics rules the day, then the hole this administration has dug for us may be too deep to get out of...the possibility of one governor appointing five of the seven justices to the Kansas Supreme Court is distressing. We care deeply about the future of our state and the outcome of this retention election could impact the court for the next 30 years. This is not the Brownback Supreme Court, it is the Kansas Supreme Court, and that is the way it should stay.”
“The attacks on the courts over the past few years have been unprecedented,” Parkinson said. “Our response in support of the court is, too. I am unaware of another time when we have seen a diverse group such as ours come together in common purpose. I hope this underscores just how important it is for Kansans to complete their ballots and vote to retain our justices in November.”
Members of the Kansas Supreme Court and Kansas Court of Appeals have been targeted for defeat by Kansans for Life, outgoing House Republican leaders and out-of-state special interest groups. In Kansas, judges and justices are prevented from responding to or commenting on issues or cases that may come before them, leaving them unable to respond to these blatantly political attacks.
The governor’s media tour was sponsored by Kansans for Fair Courts. Launched in 2013, Kansans for Fair Courts is a nonpartisan coalition of thousands of Kansans who are working to ensure fair and impartial courts for all Kansans and advocate for the importance of the merit selection system. This year, KFFC is working to defend and retain the members of the Kansas Supreme Court and Kansas Court of Appeals who have been targeted by political groups for defeat.
Kansans for Fair Courts is an initiative of the Kansas Values Institute. For more information, please visit: www.KansansForFairCourts.org.
CONTACT: Joyce Morrison; 785-380-7555; email@example.com