Wichita Eagle: “All of the justices and judges should be retained”

Ballot questions on whether to retain Kansas Supreme Court justices and Kansas Court of Appeals judges normally draw little attention. But this year, these decisions are among the most important and contested.

All of the justices and judges should be retained.

Most of the focus has been on the five Supreme Court justices on the ballot – Carol A. Beier, Dan Biles, Marla Luckert, Lawton R. Nuss and Caleb Stegall. Four of them have been portrayed by some as “activists” who put their personal biases above the law. But all these justices have performed their difficult jobs with care and integrity. The same is also true of the six Court of Appeals judges on the ballot – Steve Leben, G. Joseph Pierron Jr., David E. Bruns, G. Gordon Atcheson, Karen Arnold-Burger and Kathryn A. Gardner.

That’s also the conclusion of legal professionals in the state. The Kansas Judicial Evaluation Committee surveyed attorneys who have practiced before the appellate justices and judges, as well as law professors and other legal experts. Respondents overwhelmingly supported retaining the justices and judges.

Most of the organized opposition has centered on the Supreme Court’s order to hold separate sentencing trials for the Carr brothers (which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned). But well-financed groups are also hoping to use this emotional case to reshape the courts so that they will, as Gov. Sam Brownback once reportedly remarked, “vote the way we want them to.”

Brownback and his allies in the Legislature already changed how the Court of Appeals judges are appointed, and the Supreme Court Nominating Commission now appears to have a majority of members who are loyal to Brownback and his agenda. Enabling Brownback to pack the courts would undermine the independence of the judiciary and be bad for Kansas.

Read all of the Eagle endorsements.