Hearings in Kansas over judicial selection reform continued yesterday, as two members of Kansas’s judicial nominating commission testified for the House Judiciary Committee. They attested to what Bench Memos readers already know—that the commission masks partisan politics in the name of “merit.”
As both testimonies indicated, the suggestion that politics is uninvolved in the lawyer-dominated commission’s judicial screening process—tasked with sending the governor a slate of judicial candidates—is implausible. Commissioner Hayworth explained that the commission ignored information that could pinpoint qualified judicial candidates, focusing instead on “political philosophy, gender, locale, American Bar Association engagement, and age.” Commissioner Felita Kahrs similarly testified that “the assessment of the candidates was not made based on the set of selection criteria we received.” Instead, the commission gave low rankings to Governor Brownback’s allies and openly pro-life candidates, whose qualifications “exceeded and in some cases far surpassed candidates preferred by the majority of the Commission.” The screening process was so abysmal that Commissioner Hayworth testified that his company could face legal liability if they followed the same hiring process.
As I’ve previously written, the judicial nominating commission recently passed over two prominent conservative Court of Appeals candidates, creating one more example of why judicial-selection reform in Kansas is so important.