On June 22, 1965, George Ronald York and James Douglas Latham were hung, the last executions in the State of Kansas. On Jan. 2, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court disallowed many state restrictions on abortion in its Roe vs. Wade ruling.
Now in 2016, 51 years after the last state execution and 43 years after abortion became a federally controlled matter we are being told we should not vote to retain four of our current Kansas Supreme Court Justices because of the death penalty and abortion law.
Death penalty law and abortion law are state laws. But they are also federal matters that have been ruled on and defined by the U.S. Supreme Court. The interpretations of these laws are largely set by federal rulings.
When the Kansas Supreme Court Justices erred in the Carr brothers’ murder case, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the ruling and reinstated the convictions. If the Carr brothers are eventually executed the most significant factor will not be that the Kansas Supreme Court incorrectly interpreted the law. It will be that for the first time in 51 years we Kansans collectively think that God wants us to kill prisoners.
Searching pro-life political websites I could not find any claims that the Kansas Supreme Court was overturned for ruling against an abortion law. Unlike death penalty law, to date, the Kansas Supreme Court appears to simply be complying with federal interpretation of abortion law. Oddly enough for a pro-life movement, one website did provide a link saying the justices should not be retained because they are too restrictive in applying the death penalty.
Of course, there is one more date of note: On Mar. 7, 2014, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state legislature and governor did not adequately fund our schools.
Those who are currently in political control of the state are working to change education from an obligation to our future generations into whatever money is left over after we keep an ever-increasing proportion of wealth for ourselves through the income tax cuts and the trigger mechanism.
For 49 years after the last state execution and 41 years after Roe vs. Wade state political parties did not take positions on justice retention. But two years after the school finance ruling those in political control of the Republican Party are telling us to not retain these justices. And we can expect an acceleration of this message as the Nov. 8, election approaches.
Rulings on state education funding are not federal matters. An effort by those currently in political control of the state to not seat or not retain any justice that does not comply with their wishes could have an effect on education funding.
Whatever we think about death penalty and abortion laws, a vote to not retain the current Supreme Court justices will almost certainly only serve as tool for the pro-income tax lobby.