Bench Memos

Making the Case for Kansas Judicial Reform

Writing in the Wichita Eagle, Melika Willoughby cogently lays out the case for much-needed reform of the selection process for judges serving on the Kansas Supreme Court. As in so many other states, an unelected panel of attorneys and special appointees selects a short list of candidates – three, to be exact – and the governor must pick one of the three. But the Kansas system is unusual. As Ms. Willoughby explains:

Though 13 states use a similar appointment process, which sometimes goes by the erroneous name of “merit selection,” only Kansas gives majority control to an unaccountable group of lawyers. The procedure puts final appointment authority in the hands of trial lawyers who just last week may have been having coffee with the same tort-baron friends they are now recommending for the state’s highest court. These court-controllers never stand for election, allowing them to subject the rule of law to their personal political ideology.

And they do just that. The empirical data shows that nominees emerging from such committees overwhelmingly lean left. That sort of lopsided result highlights the fundamentally flawed premise behind all of these supposedly apolitical selection processes: 

But men and women, upon entering the committee room, cannot simply check their political views at the coatrack. Nonpolitical decision makers are mythical creatures.

Read the whole thing.

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