Kansas: a look at the bills seeking to change supreme court selection

In recent years, no state has seen more bills to change their method of judicial selection than Kansas and 2015 is no exception. What follows is a rundown of those introduced as of today.

Currently the Kansas Supreme Court’s selection process (Art. III, Sec. 5) has three key elements that could be changed under the legislation introduced

Commission submits binding list to Governor

The constitution calls for the creation of a Supreme Court Nominating Commission made up of

  • 1 member of the bar, chosen statewide by the members of the bar, as chair
  • 4 members of the bar (constitution says one per congressional district) chosen by the members of the as bar in that district
  • 4 members (constitution says one per congressional district) appointed by the governor from among the residents of the district

When a vacancy occurs on the court, the Supreme Court Nominating Commission is to submit a list of three names to the government for appointment.

Governor appoints without legislative confirmation

The Governor is bound to select from those names (if he or she fails to do so, the chief justice picks). The legislature plays no role.

Retention by majority vote

The appointed justice serves for an initial term ending on the second Monday in January following the first general election that occurs after the expiration of twelve months in office. They are then subject to a yes/no retention election. If a majority of those voting on the question vote against retention, the office is vacant. If a majority vote for retention, the justice serves for a 6-year term.

Changes and August vs. November 2016

The legislation thus far introduced changes several of the items listed above. Moreover, several proposals opt to place the constitutional amendment not on the General Election ballot for November 2016, but in the August 2016 Primary Election races.

Synopsis August vs. November 2016 Commission membership change Commission submits binding list to Governor Governor appoints without confirmation Retention by majority vote
HCR 5004 Partisan elections August Commission eliminated No No No
HCR 5005 Governor appoints, Senate confirms, yes/no retention elections November Commission eliminated No Governor appoints with Senate confirmation Yes
HCR 5006 Governor appoints, Senate confirms, serve for life August Commission eliminated No Governor appoints with Senate confirmation No, serve for life
HCR 5009 Requires judges in retention elections receive a 67% “yes” vote to remain in office. November No Yes Yes No, 67%
HCR 5012 and implementing HB 2301 Governor appoints from list provided by House Judiciary Committee, Senate confirms, yes/no retention elections November Commission eliminated No, House Judiciary committee Governor appoints with Senate confirmation Yes
HCR 5013 Change commission membership November 4 members chosenby election of bar members (one per congressional district)5 members chosen by governor (one per congressional district + 1 statewide to serve as chair)6 members chosen by legislature (2 House Speaker; 1 House Minority Leader; 2 Senate President; 1 Senate Minority Leader) Yes Yes Yes

One thought on “Kansas: a look at the bills seeking to change supreme court selection

  1. Pingback: Kansas: changes to selection of Supreme Court out of committee, but may not have 2/3rds needed Gavel to Gavel | A review of state legislation affecting the courts

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