Kansas: citing “political offenses” of state supreme court, impeachment plans for judges chosen via merit/commission selection approved by Senate committee for 2nd time; judges would be impeached for “usurping the power of the legislative branch”

Earlier today a plan (discussed here, here, and here) to impeach judges chosen via the state’s merit/commission system, including most specifically the state’s supreme court, cleared for a second time a Kansas Senate committee.

SB 439 targets with threat of impeachment only those judges/justices chosen via the state’s merit selection system

in an impeachment proceeding against a justice of the supreme court or in a proceeding for discipline, suspension or removal for cause against an appointed judge of the district court, the grounds for such impeachment or for such discipline, suspension or removal for cause shall include, but not be limited to, any one or more of the following

The list of impeachable offenses in the constitution is limited to treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. Proponents claim that “high crimes” refer to the office held and not the severity of the crimes themselves and that there need to be consequences for political offenses.

The new list of impeachable offenses as applied to the appointed judges/justices would now include

  • attempting to usurp the power of the legislative or executive branch of government
  • attempting to subvert fundamental laws and introduce arbitrary power
  • commission of treason
  • commission of bribery
  • commission of other indictable criminal offenses
  • commission of a breach of the public trust
  • commission of a breach of judicial ethics
  • failure to perform adequately the duties of office
  • exhibiting wanton or reckless judicial conduct
  • exhibiting personal misbehavior or misconduct
  • failure to adequately supervise subordinate employees

An amendment adopted during the committee debate includes the creation of a list of “high crimes and misdemeanors” for executive branch officials that include “attempting to usurp the power of the legislative or judicial branch of government.”

This is the second time the bill has passed, the first time was as a late unannounced amendment to another bill.