Judicial elections, democratic appointment (e.g., senate confirmation), and the Missouri Plan (a/k/a "merit selection")

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Renewed Push to Change Kansas Supreme Court Selection

Changing the way Supreme Court justices are selected will be the highest priority for the majority of the Kansas Legislature this year, according to Chapman Rackaway, a political science professor at Fort Hays State University.

"Obviously the governor wants selection of all judges to be consolidated under the governor’s office, and so that’s going to be a front-burner issue for this legislature," Rackaway said. "They’ll get it done. They have plenty of loyalty to the governor. They share his goal on this. So I think that would be a pretty easy thing for them to get done."

I don't know that I agree with this.  First, a constitutional amendment to change Kansas Supreme Court selection requires two-thirds of both houses of the legislature, which is part of why constitutional amendments are pretty rare.

Second, I wouldn't characterize this issue as this governor wanting more power over judicial selection.  Those of us advocating reform have been advocating it through several governors of both parties and, in my case, advocating it nationally regardless of the state's political leanings.  Moving from the Kansas's current bar-empowering version of the Missouri Plan to a senate confirmation is a matter of principle for the long-term, not a way to empower a particular governor at a particular time and place.

1 comment:

  1. Although your proposal may well be "not a way to empower a particular governor at a particular time and place," when considered in a vacuum, it grants our governor incredible power to remake the court if it is coupled with several measures being considered by the current legislature. These measures include a mandatory retirement age of 70 (and I've heard as low as 65 being proposed) and a higher retention vote percentage than the current threshold. Add in the infusion of dark money groups advocating against retention (as was the case for "Kansans for Justice" in the last election), and I believe we will end up with a court that does not serve as an appropriate check on the governor or the legislature. I fail to see how these changes, taken together, are any better than Roosevelt's 1937 plan to pack the Supreme Court. I am not necessarily arguing against any one of these ideas in particular, just all of them together. What are your thoughts on the possible consequence that all of these measures will become reality?

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