Gavel Grab

New Attack on Merit Selection Launched in Kansas

By one vote, the Kansas legislature’s House Judiciary Committee approved legislation to eliminate merit-based selection of state Court of Appeals judges and replace it with gubernatorial appointment of judges subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

The action by critics of Kansas’ merit system for choosing top judges represented an “end run,” a Winfield Daily Courier editorial said, because there is not enough support in the House for a proposed constitutional amendment to similarly change judicial selection for both the Supreme Court and appeals court. The state Senate has voted its support for the constitutional amendment (see Gavel Grab).

The editorial noted that polling shows popular support of Kansans for keeping the existing system, which includes a nominating commission to recommend qualified candidates to the governor for appointment. It defended merit selection:

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform in 2012 ranked the Kansas high courts with their current, commission-based selection process the fifth best in the nation overall.

“Our lawmakers should leave well enough alone.”

In other court news from Kansas, the state Supreme Court issued a ruling in a controversial case that attracted national news media attention. “Kansas Supreme Court Rules Non-Biological Lesbian Mother Has Same Parenting Rights As Birth Mother,” stated a Huffington Post headline.

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