In Kansas, the League of Women Voters of Manhattan/Riley County and the League of Women Voters of Wichita - Metro are working to defend their state's long-standing judicial merit selection system from a proposed constitutional amendment that could eliminate it. Championed by Governor Samuel Brownback after the 2012 elections gave the Republicans substantial majorities in both houses of the legislature, the proposed amendment would replace nominating commissions with a "federal-style" system that relies on gubernatorial appointment and Senate confirmation.
League leaders are sending the letter featured below to their local newspapers:
"For over half a century, the state of Kansas has used the merit system for selecting Justices of its Supreme Court and for selecting judges in 17 of the state’s 31 judicial districts. This process is provided through an amendment to the state Constitution, which followed the infamous “triple play” of 1956, where the governor arranged his being named as a Supreme Court justice. Later, when the state Court of Appeals was created, the statute provided for the use of merit selection of its judges.
The founders of this country understood the value of forming three co-equal, independent branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. The reason for this remains sound – to assure fair and reasonable laws without any one branch of government dominating or unduly exercising its powers. Why, then, is Governor Brownback pushing legislators to change this effective process, to be replaced with political appointment?
As citizens we have a right to a fair and impartial hearing in court. We rightfully expect the judge to be free of outside influence, including that of the Governor who appointed him/her to the court. Maintaining our current merit system may best be summed up by current U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who said “Judicial independence for judges is to not do as they choose, but to do as they must.”
I urge Kansas residents to talk with their legislators before the 2013 legislative session starts, calling for them to oppose laws that would change our current judicial selection system and put the impartiality of our judges at risk."