Kansas Justices Discuss Job, Political Challenges

The Wichita Eagle reports that Justice Carol Beier and Chief Justice Lawton Nuss of the Kansas Supreme Court spoke with and answered questions from the public this weekend at an event where they addressed some of the challenges they face in their job.

According to the newspaper, the very first questions asked by the crowd were on the judicial impeachment bill (see Gavel Grab) and the recent efforts to change the way justices are selected (see Gavel Grab).

In response to the impeachment bill, Justice Beier said that while she has faith in the legislature to do the right thing, they have a “fairly interesting if not hostile environment to work in outside the building.” Addressing the potential selection reform, Chief Justice Nuss responded by praising the current system for its rigorousness, something he thinks the systems currently under consideration by the legislature might not offer:

“It was a very thorough vetting. It’s for people who are serious about it, and it’s competitive and you get a chance to see the credentials of the people who are applying. If you don’t have that system, you don’t know how that person who is picked stacks up.”

Addressing these developments, an opinion piece in the Garden City Telegram argues that they constitute a sustained attack on the court. The newspaper writes that Gov. Brownback and Republican lawmakers’ “interest in controlling the judiciary defies a basic principle of liberty in separation of powers that provides checks and balances among three co-equal branches of government.”

“In a powerful rebuke of the Republican faction in charge, a recent statewide poll showed far more dissatisfaction with Brownback and the ultraconservative-controlled Legislature than the Kansas Supreme Court,” the article concludes.