Rep. Becker: Courts need to be independent

By Rep. Steven Becker in the Hutch News

Advance voting has begun at the Reno County Courthouse Annex. On the ballot you will find the names of five of the seven Kansas Supreme Court justices who wish to be retained on the Supreme Court. The voter responds with a simple “yes” or “no” for each individual justice. No justice has failed to be retained in the history of our state. I strongly urge you to vote “yes” five times.

My comments on this most important issue are based upon my personal experience of serving as a district court judge for over six terms, occasional temporary assignment to the Kansas Court of Appeals and, more recently, serving on the Kansas House Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice.

As a trial court judge I had my share of rulings reversed by appellate courts. Yet, I believe I was a good judge. Receiving notice of a reversal was never an indictment of my judicial abilities. I knew I had made a decision, often a very difficult one, based upon the facts as I found them and the law as I interpreted it. I always made a concerted effort not to be influenced by public opinion or outside interests.

There is an aggressive campaign to not retain our Supreme Court justices. The campaign uses misleading and inflammatory rhetoric. It treats violations of the Constitution as technicalities. It argues that if the Kansas Supreme Court is reversed by SCOTUS our justices should be removed. I wish they would stop inferring that our Bill of Rights is the “Bill of Mere Technicalities!”

The administration and Legislature have placed tremendous pressure upon the Supreme Court in an effort to influence decisions. The Legislature went so far as passing legislation that would defund the entire state’s court system if a certain ruling was made. (The Legislature had to quickly and quietly repeal the law after the court made the ruling.) Only our Supreme Court stands as an obstacle to an autocratic government.

Read the entire opinion piece at the Hutch News.