TOPEKA (AP) — Legislation giving the Kansas governor and lawmakers more power in appointing Court of Appeals judges is on its way to Gov. Sam Brownback.
The Senate gave the measure final approval Wednesday on a vote of 28-12. The House passed it earlier this month, and Brownback is expected to sign it.
The measure would give the governor the authority to appoint Court of Appeals judges, subject to Senate confirmation.
It abolishes the existing attorney-led commission that screens applicants and nominates three finalists. The governor makes the appointment, with no role for lawmakers.
Supporters, including Senator Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, contend the new process will be more open. Opponents see no need for change.
Many lawmakers want to change a similar selection process for the Kansas Supreme Court, but that would require amending the state constitution.
Kansans elected their Supreme Court justices until a constitutional amendment was adopted in 1958, creating the current system. The reason for the change at that time was to reduce the politics involved in selecting those judges.
The public got behind the 1958 amendment in response to political maneuvering by Gov. Fred Hall. According to the Kansas Historical Society: “After he was defeated in the Republican primary in 1956, Hall he saw a chance to retain a powerful position in Kansas politics when Chief Justice Smith resigned from the court due to ill health. On Jan. 3, 1957, shortly before the end of his term, Hall resigned as governor, thereby elevating Lieutenant Governor (John B.) McCuish to the state’s highest office. McCuish obliged by immediately appointing Hall to the newly vacated Supreme Court seat. This ‘triple play,’ while perfectly legal, nevertheless was considered by many to be highly unethical. In filling out the remainder of Fred Hall’s term, John McCuish served as governor of the state of Kansas for 11 days.