Will Kansas Judiciary Be Spared The Ax?

Acting quickly to avert a zeroing out of Kansas court funding, state legislators appear to be sparing the third branch “the ax,” said The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog. The situation in Kansas continues to capture national media attention.

On Thursday, committees in each chamber of the Kansas legislature unanimously approved bills to keep the state courts open, the Associated Press said. They voted to dispel a cloud cast over this funding by legislation passed last year in what widely was viewed by defenders of fair and impartial courts as a political attack on the judiciary (see Gavel Grab for background).

A Lawrence Journal-World editorial, meanwhile, warned that given Gov. Sam Brownback’s call this week to change the way state Supreme Court justices are chosen, there still is controversy ahead for the state’s judiciary. The editorial took a dim view of Brownback’s prescription:

“Despite his repeated assertion that our system is out of step with the rest of the nation, Kansas is one of 24 states that uses a merit system with a nominating commission to select supreme court justices. Rather than try to address any concerns about the makeup of the Kansas commission, Brownback continues to advocate throwing out the merit system in favor of a more political system in which the governor appoints justices with Senate confirmation.”

A Salina Journal editorial said, “Brownback kept up his attack on the Kansas Supreme Court, which has been the one branch of government that has refused to genuflect and let him steamroll the law. He wants more power for himself and the Legislature to select Supreme Court judges. Bad idea. Very, very bad idea.”