The Constitutional Challenge to Judicial Selection in Kansas

On Friday, the Judicial Education Project, an educational affiliate of the Judicial Crisis Network, filed an amici curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the cert petition in Dool v. Burke.  The brief is on behalf of Governor Sam Brownback, speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives Ray Merrickpresident of the Kansas senate Susan Wagle, and top legislative leaders in the state.  Dool involves a constitutional challenge to Kansas’s version of the Missouri Plan, which uses a nine-member judicial nominating commission to send the governor a slate of judicial candidates for filling judicial vacancies. 

Unfortunately, five of the commission’s members are chosen in an election reserved exclusively for lawyers.  This disproportionately favors lawyers in the judicial selection process, “trampl[ing on] the equal-protection rights of non-lawyers. . . . By delegating to the state’s lawyers the authority to elect a controlling majority of a body that exercises almost all of the discretion involved in appointing supreme court justices, Kansas has virtually given the state bar the authority to elect those who choose the justices.”

State judicial selection is an important issue, especially in Kansas, which is why we have been so active there. Justice O’Connor has argued that “the question of how we choose our judges, whom we entrust to uphold and interpret our laws, speaks to foundational principles of our judiciary and, indeed, our nation.” As our brief explains, “The state court judges nominated by the lawyer-dominated Commission and ultimately appointed by the Governor will ‘have broad and powerful effects on the general public,’ Nelson Lund [citation omitted] and play a critical role in developing ‘the rules governing social behavior,’ Pet. App. 25a (McKay, J., dissenting).”

Read the whole brief. For more on these arguments, see Nelson Lund’s law review article, published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy

Carrie Severino — Carrie Severino is chief counsel and policy director to the Judicial Crisis Network.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More