Kansas: New House Judiciary Committee plan involves allowing for the recall of judges

I’ve mentioned the recent developments in Kansas involving an end to merit selection for the court of appeals, the efforts to end merit selection for the supreme court, and the pending state supreme court case that may result in an order directing the legislature to give more funds to K-12 education which may result in the courts being stripped of the power  to hear such cases.

The latest news now involves removing judges from office in a fairly direct manner; a new legislative effort introduced yesterday would allow for judges, including the members of the state supreme court, to be subject to recall elections.

First, some background.

Under a state constitutional amendment adopted in 1914 the power of recall was extended to all elected officials, including judges.

Every public officer holding either by election or appointment is subject to recall from office by a majority of the electors of the state or lesser electoral division for which elected or appointed, voting on the subject at any general or special election…

A 1974 amendment retained recall elections but exempted judges

All elected public officials in the state, except judicial officers, shall be subject to recall by voters of the state or political subdivision from which elected. Procedures and grounds for recall shall be prescribed by law.

The law prescribing the procedures and grounds is codified as K.S.A. Chapter 25, Article 43 which reiterates the constitution’s language

  • K.S.A. 25-4301: “The provisions of this act do not apply to any judicial officer.”
  • K.S.A. 25-4304: Recall laws “apply only to recall of the governor, members of the legislature, any public officials elected by the electors of the entire state and members of the state board of education.”

HB 2492 which was formally sponsored by the House Judiciary Committee itself would remove the statutory exception in 25-4301 and specifically add judges to the list found in 25-4304 (Recall laws “apply only to recall of the governor, members of the legislature, judges, any public officials elected by the electors of the entire state, members of the state board of education and all appointed judges and justices of the state.”)

The bill so far stands alone; as of this writing there does not appear to be a corresponding House Concurrent Resolution offered to remove the constitutional barrier to judicial recall.

HB 2492 was filed in the House but not yet assigned to a committee.

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