The Kansas House of Representatives has passed a bill to replace merit selection of judges on the Court of Appeals with appointment by the governor, subject to state Senate confirmation.
The current selection process, involving a judicial nominating commission that sends candidates to the governor, gives too much influence in the process to attorneys and disenfranchises other residents, contended the legislator carrying the bill, Republican Rep. Lance Kinzer.
He also said the proposed process would mirror federal judicial selection, according to a Topeka Capital-Journal article.
The bill passed over opposition expressed this week by Judge Richard D. Greene, chief judge of the appeals bench, who criticized the idea of replacing merit selection with a “purely political selection process.” Judge Greene added, as Gavel Grab mentioned:
“We don’t need politicians as judges. We need our best and brightest to be judges who will fairly and impartially interpret and apply Kansas law without regard to political ideology, political agenda, political party or political contributors.”
If the bill became law, Kansas voters still would be asked to vote on whether to retain a sitting appellate court judge.
Legislators defending the current merit selection plan for appeals court judges said the bill would thrust judges into the political arena. One of them, Republican Rep. Rob Brookens, said an overhaul of the selection process could be avoided by changing the number of attorneys on the nominating commission, if that issue was seen as critical.
The legislation would change the existing merit selection process for just the Court of Appeals, which is governed by state law. Selection of members of the Kansas Supreme Court is set by the state’s Constitution and would require more than a bill in the legislature to change it.
According to a Wichita Eagle article, one group that has made a priority of changing judicial selection of judges is Americans for Prosperity. A political group, it seeks reduced government involvement in business.