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Stories From Around the State
By: Cynthia Padera
A new publication from the League of Women Voters Education Fund, "From Theory to Practice: A Grassroots Education Campaign," shares lessons learned by the state and local Leagues in Kansas and South Carolina that participated in "Safeguarding Democracy: Quest for a More Diverse Judiciary" from 2009-2012. The publication is intended as a resource for Leagues and partner organizations that seek guidance for the implementation of successful grassroots education campaigns.
Date: 7 PM, May 1
Location: Lyon County Courthouse, Emporia, Kansas
Event: Panel Discussion
Partners: Lyon County Law Library; Emporia Public Library
In honor of Law Day, the League of Women Voters of Emporia, Kansas, will present a panel discussion on the Kansas Sentencing Guidelines at 7 PM on Tuesday, May 1, in the Jury Assembly Room, 2nd floor of the Lyon County Courthouse. Chief Judge Merlin Wheeler, District Judge Jeffry Larsonm and Magistrate Judge Doug Jones will address questions such as: “How do we determine who is placed on probation and who goes to prison,” “who makes the rules regarding length of sentences,” and “do prison populations/overcrowding factor into sentencing decisions?” The 2012 Law Day theme, “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom,” underscores the importance of the courts and their role in ensuring access to justice for all Americans.
Light refreshments will be served following the one-hour program, which is free and open to the public.
By: Jessica Jones
Local Leagues across the country have responded to recent attempts in Congress to allow employers and health plans to block contraceptive services and discriminate against women.
On February 28, Ernestine Krehbiel, president of the Kansas League of Women Voters, took a family friend, 20-year-old Chris Lawless, to vote in a Wichita election. Because Lawless has no government-issued ID, he filled out a provisional ballot after waiting for elections officials to decide if he could vote.
Krebhiel reported “He's so frustrated he's almost given up,” and noted that the League is “concerned with a lot of people like this, when they run into difficulty, they just give up.” Read more here.
Since 2010, foes of merit selection in Kansas have pushed a bill that would eliminate the nominating commission for the Court of Appeals and give the governor the power to appoint those judges directly, pending federal-style Senate confirmation. The measure passed in the House in 2011, but stalled in the Senate. The League of Women Voters has been carefully monitoring its status, and on February 24, 2012, the Senate finally revisited the bill, under pressure from advocacy group Kansans for Life.
Facing bipartisan opposition, the proposal failed on a 17-22 vote, with legislators citing concerns about maintaining the separation of powers. Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, "Make no bones about it, if we pass this bill and give this authority to the governor or any other governor, what we are doing is giving the executive branch control of the third branch of government." Others, such as Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, pointed to the federal system as an unenviable, gridlocked mess. Still others argued that the new method would not, as suggested, further the pro-life cause: one anti-abortion senator noted that the federal process appointed the judges who ruled in Roe v. Wade.
The League of Women Voters of Kansas applauds the Senate for considering the impact of the decision on judicial independence.
Across the country, Leagues are raising their voices on voting rights, redistricting, clean air and water, campaign funding and more. From Massachusetts to Florida, New York to Kansas and points in between, Leagues are busy educating and advocating.
Date: May 3, 2011
Location: Johnson County Courthouse, Johnson County, Kansas
Partners: Johnson County Bar Association
The goal of the League of Women Voters of Johnson County in hosting a Law Day program for students was to engage diverse young people in middle schools to educate them about employment opportunities within the judicial system. Five middle schools participated in the project. Judge Stephen Tatum addressed the students regarding what his job entailed and about how and why he became a judge, what classes might be of interest to them, and the judicial process and courtroom procedures. The students had an opportunity to ask questions regarding his experiences in the courtroom and cases that he had heard. They were then encouraged to visit various tables set up within the hallways and attend other programs, such as forensics labs and mock courts, offered in various parts of the courthouse. Students were given bags which held pens, literature, and wristbands. At this time they also were given lunch boxes and photos were taken for them to keep as a memento of Law Day.
In a historic first, the Kansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals will travel outside Topeka to hear oral arguments in cases as part of a public outreach program.
The Kansas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on cases in Salina on April 13, 2011, then Greensburg on September 28, 2011, then Wichita on September 29, 2011. The court proceedings will be open to the public and available live online on the the Kansas Judicial Branch website.
In March and April 2011, judges from the Kansas Court of Appeals, which traditionally sits in Topeka, will visit the communities of Pittsburg, McPherson, and Leavenworth to hear appeals, and participate in a variety of official outreach programs while in the area that target local students and citizens. In September 2011, the Court of Appeals will hear cases at Wichita State University in Wichita; Washburn University in Topeka; Kansas City Community College in Kansas City, Kansas; and Barton Community College in Salina as part of the schol’s observation of Constitution Day. In October and November, 2011, the Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in Colby, Kingman, Salina, and Douglas.