NEWS

Wichita Eagle Opinion: Emotions don't justify unseating judges

By David Merritt

Kansans’ respect for individual rights and the rule of law are on the ballot Nov. 8, personified by the names of five Kansas Supreme Court justices and six Court of Appeals judges.

Voters will be asked to say “yes” or “no” to the question of whether each of the 11 will continue on the bench or be replaced by people chosen by Gov. Sam Brownback.

If any or all are dismissed, Brownback will have the go-ahead to mold the top levels of the state’s judiciary (comprising seven justices and 14 judges) according to his personal ideology.

That awesome and lasting influence should not be handed to anyone for transient, contrived or illogical reasons, but Kansas law requires that judges at those levels stand periodically for retention.

Thus, voters need to think deeply about what judicial independence from political and social trends looks like and what criteria should be met before they dismiss sitting judges.

Whether elected or appointed, judges can never be wholly free of political influence, because they are part of a carefully structured governing plan based on popular consent, i.e. politics. But securing individual liberties is the goal of that system, and independent judges are the only part of the system that guarantees any aggrieved individual a chance for relief.

Read Davis Merritt's entire column at the Wichita Eagle.