AFP On Judicial Selection in Kansas

January 29, 2013

Americans for Prosperity-Kansas supports changing the way Kansas selects its judges to the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.  Currently, Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges are selected primarily by an insider group of Kansas lawyers, and Kansas is the only state with lawyers completely dominating the selection process.

Our position was derived by evaluating the current system and finding a number of things that cause concern.  While there are a number of ways to change the system, here are some reasons as to why the current secretive system needs to be replaced by a transparent one.

1. It’s not a democratic system. The system ignores the one-person, one vote standard that exists in a democracy.  In a state with approximately 2.7 million citizens, only a few thousand state bar members get to vote on judicial candidates.

2. It lacks transparency. If you’re not a voting member of the bar association, then you’re shut out of the selection process for candidates.  The votes are not made public and the discussions regarding one’s merits are not disclosed or at least, they don’t have to be.  It makes you wonder what exactly the association has to hide.

3. The Kansas Bar Association has a tremendous amount of power. Bar members make up a majority of the selection committees; they can hold their candidate selection meetings behind closed doors. They’re not accountable to the people of Kansas.

What Kansas needs is a judicial selection process that’s more transparent and accountable to the people.  Senate confirmation or elections of judges would do both.  The fact that the current system does not allow for citizen input prior to someone being placed on the court is disturbing.

AFP-Kansas supports making reform-minded changes to the selection system that involves citizen input and transparency. We believe a Senate confirmation process would allow the appropriate questions to be asked before a judge is appointed, rather than later.

For more information on this topic, check out these resources:

“This Week in Kansas” interview with KU Law Professor Stephen Ware

Wichita Liberty: Kansas is at the undemocratic extreme in judicial selection

To take action on judicial selection reform, click here.



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