Editorial on Independent Judiciary: ‘We Mess With It At Our Peril’

welcome-to-kansasA scathing editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch decries politicians’ attacks on the Kansas Supreme Court and warns of the perils of tampering with fair and impartial courts, whether through legislation or judicial elections.

The editorial is headlined, “When two branches of government declare war on the third.” It chronicles the fury of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and allies in the legislature with most of the state Supreme Court’s justices, “who insist on applying the law instead of rubber-stamping whatever the Legislature passes.” The editorial says:

“Politicizing the judiciary is always a bad idea, but Kansas is taking a bad idea to new depths. The state Senate last month passed a bill making ‘attempting to usurp the power’ of the Legislature or executive branch an impeachable offense.”

Justice at Stake has called that legislation unconstitutional (see Gavel Grab). The editorial goes on to report that political efforts are expected to unseat four Kansas justices in retention elections this fall, and it concludes:

“It’s a terrible idea to have big-money politics determining which judges are elected or rejected. An independent judiciary, answering only to the rule of law, is the glory of American democracy. Whether it’s in Kansas or Missouri or in the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation process, we mess with it at our peril.” 

A Topeka Capital-Journal article reports, meanwhile, “Kansas Supreme Court justice’s fundraising arm decries ‘politicized effort’ to oust members over school finance.”