A review of proposals to change Kansas judicial selection: partisan elections, quasi-federal style, federal style, modified merit, etc.

January 22nd, 2013 by Bill Raftery Leave a reply »

I mentioned on the 14th that I anticipated a flurry of activity from Kansas this year and the last week has borne that out.

On the Senate side, there were several hearings on the subject of ending or modifying the state’s merit selection system. The House hearings are set for this week, starting today (January 22).

End merit selection, move to Senate confirmation

The first batch simply end merit selection outright for the state’s appellate courts and provides for Senate confirmation. The bills and constitutional amendments are notable in that everyone provides a time limit scheme: if the Senate fails to confirm within a set number of days the individual is deemed confirmed.

SB 8 / SCR 1601  Ends merit selection in state for appellate courts. Provides governor may select nominees subject to senate confirmation. Creates Commission on Judicial Qualifications to review governor’s pick and make recommendations prior to Senate confirmation. Provides failure by Senate to vote on candidate within certain time frame results in automatic confirmation.

HB 2019 Ends merit selection for court of appeals only. Provides governor may select nominees subject to senate confirmation. Provides failure by Senate to vote on candidate within certain time frame results in automatic confirmation.

HCR 5002 Ends merit selection in state for appellate courts. Provides governor may select nominees subject to senate confirmation. Provides failure by Senate to vote on candidate within certain time frame results in automatic confirmation.

End merit selection, move to partisan elections

The second batch of bills simply apply the existing laws and provisions for partisan elections that apply to the District Court in 14 judicial districts in the state to the appellate courts (e.g. “Except as otherwise provided in this section, election laws applicable to other state officers elected from the state as a whole shall apply to the nomination and election of justices of the supreme court.”).

HB 2020 Ends merit selection for court of appeals only. Provides for partisan elections.

HCR 5003 Ends merit selection in state for appellate courts. Provides for partisan elections.

Modify merit selection

The third batch modifies merit selection in the state in various ways. Most interesting is HCR 5005, which most closely resemble the practice at the Federal level. It would include appointments for “good behavior” with senate confirmation. An almost identical proposal met with House approval in 2011 (HB 2101) but faced a constitutional hurdle: the Indiana constitution prohibits lifetime appointments for anyone. HCR 5005 would allow for such a lifetime appointment.

HCR 5004 / SCR 1605 Modifies state’s merit selection commission (although named “supreme court nominating commission”, covers court of appeals as well) to a 4-5-6 plan: 4 attorneys chosen by the state’s lawyers, 5 people chosen by the governor, and 6 by legislative leadership.

HCR 5005 Modifies state’s merit selection commission for the supreme court only: 3 by governor, 3 by House Speaker, 3 by Senate President (one of each must be attorney). Provides nominee is subject to Senate confirmation. Provides failure by Senate to vote on candidate within certain time frame results in automatic confirmation. Provides justices terms are to be for “good behavior”.

1 comment

  1. I only add that merit selection may or may not put the best, most honest, and brightest on the bench. It depends on how it is set up. One commentator noted about a midwestern’s state’s method of selecting appellate and supreme court judges- merit so callec selection. I noted both the humor and concern.

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