The process for selecting Kansas Supreme Court justices should be changed.
Why? There are many reasons but let’s take a look at a few of the more important ones.
1 — The members of the nominating commission are selected by the Kansas Bar and the governor. The governor appoints four non-attorneys to the commission. Kansas attorneys vote for the other five members. Of the 1.7 million voters in Kansas, only about 6,000 attorneys can actually be involved in the vote for five members.
The citizens of Kansas, who are subject to the rulings of appointed justices, are ignored by the “process” and they have no input whatsoever. Only attorneys and the governor are involved. This is what used to be called the “good old boys club.”
2 — The so-called process is done in secret. The votes of the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission are secret. The public can learn of the pool of applicants and the three chosen by the Commission, but cannot discover which commissioners voted for or against which applicants. The open meeting rules do not apply to the Commission.
3 — Those supporting this closed system refer to it as the “merit system,” as though merit and qualifications are the basis for their actions. Hardly.
Just one example: From the list of 9,000 attorneys in Kansas that may be qualified to serve on the Kansas Supreme Court, the nominating commission selected three attorneys to recommend to then Gov. Bill Graves.
Amazingly, one of them, Lawton Nuss, was a close personal friend of then Gov. Bill Graves. Imagine the coincidence that a close friend of the governor’s just happened to be one of the finalists. Merit system or “good old boy” system? You decide. Oops. Sorry, you the citizen can’t decide because you have been eliminated from the process.
Some say the “merit system” is not political. After reading this scenario, you can decide if the process is political or not!
4 — Supporters of the current process say the “merit system” keeps special interests from being involved in the process. Special interests? Like the citizens. Like the voters.
The current process eliminates open and public scrutiny of candidates for justices. The only special interest here is the special interests of attorneys and the current sitting judges to keep their position on the court.
Not one Kansas Supreme Court judge has ever been removed from the court because of a vote for no retention.
However, it is my belief that many of the justices would have never been appointed in the first place if the public, the citizens or their elected representatives, had been involved.
The courts and many justices are taking the law into their own hands. The process in Kansas needs to be changed. The people must be involved in the process.