Jan 21 2013
The Kansas State Legislature has recently been alight with calls to revamp the state’s judicial selection process. The U.S. form of government is rooted in the ability to change bad or broken laws, but in this case, there’s one big problem: Merit Selection in Kansas is working.
Opponents of Merit Selection have alleged that the current process places too much power
in the hands of the Kansas Bar Association. Their proposed solution is a switch to a Federal-style system where the governor would appoint judges to the bench. The appointees would then be subject to confirmation by the state Senate. The proposal has been met with fervent opposition.
Ever since reforms were proposed, there has been an outpouring of support for Kansas’s current Merit Selection system. A poll conducted by Justice at Stake showed that 61% of respondents favored the current system over the proposed changes, and a flurry of articles from editorial boards and pundits has praised the virtues of the status quo.
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The Topeka Capital-Journal quoted Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg, “Kansans don’t want
to tamper with their constitution. They want their judges chosen based on their qualifications, not partisan politics. They’re not comfortable vesting so much power in the hands of a governor, even one that they like.”
But beyond the political power plays and constitutional issues, lies a simple truth. Kansas Bar Association president Lee Smithyman phrased it eloquently and succinctly in his testimony urging Kansas legislators to maintain the current Merit Selection System. “This is a system that works. This is a system that generates an excellent judiciary.” And as the old saying goes…If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.