Salina Journal: Justices should be retained

Opponents have disparaged some Kansas Supreme Court justices, saying they should not be retained in office because of their rulings in several death penalty cases, or regarding school finance or abortion.

They think that voters on Nov. 8 should oust Chief Justice Lawton Nuss and justices Maria Luckert, Carol Beier and Dan Biles. Justice Caleb Stegall, who was appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback, also is up for retention, but his name usually is not mentioned by those seeking ouster of justices.

Kansans for Justice seeks ouster of the justices because of their decision to uphold the convictions of brothers Jonathan and Reginald Carr in connection with several Wichita area murders but vacate their death sentences. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Kansas court and reinstated the death sentences.

Former Gov. Mike Hayden was quoted in a Wichita Eagle story as saying, “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.”

Independence and impartiality of the judicial branch are essential. Justices must be assured that they can make unpopular and even controversial decisions without fear of losing their jobs, or being pressured by the public.

Read the entire editorial at the Salina Journal.