Selecting Supreme Court and Appeals Court Judges in Kansas

By John Todd.

I believe there are compelling reasons why we need to change from the undemocratic, secretive system of selecting Supreme Court and Court of Appeals judges in Kansas to a more democratic and transparent system that is more accountable to the people of Kansas (Wichita Eagle editorial: Don’t change courts, Jan. 28, 2013).

Our current selection process relies on a nominating commission completely dominated by lawyers, with a majority of its members selected by the Kansas Bar Association. Their candidate selection meetings are not open to the public; this secretive system provides no accountability to Kansans.

I favor the judicial selection process currently under consideration in the legislature, which would require Senate confirmation of judicial candidates selected by the governor. I like the transparency of open confirmation hearings and the accountability to the people that can be achieved by entrusting the judicial selection process to elected officials.

The real issue as I see it, is “who picks the pickers” of these judges? Do we entrust this process to the current nominating committee system that is selected by a few thousand members of the state bar or to a governor and with confirmation by a state senate, both of which are elected by the people, with accountability to the 2.8 million citizens of Kansas?

The system of judicial selection I favor for Kansas mirrors the federal system of presidential selection of judges, with Senate confirmation.

I have been aware of the need for change in the judicial selection process for nearly 10 years, and certainly prior to the politically charged school finance lawsuits of recent years.

I believe the people of Kansas deserve a more democratic and transparent system that is accountable to them.