Bench Memos

Kudos to Governors Brownback and Branstad

There is good news in the world of state judicial-selection reform.

Kansas: Last week I reported that the Kansas House Judiciary Committee had approved legislation that would abolish the state’s Missouri Plan for selecting court of appeals judges and replace it with a system mirroring the federal model. The joyful news to report is that the Kansas House has approved the legislation, and it is now up to the Kansas Senate to act.

If the legislation is approved by the senate and signed by Governor Brownback, Kansas will take one of the most significant steps toward repudiating the Missouri Plan since it was first adopted. Governor Brownback deserves a great deal of credit for getting the legislation this far. He supported judicial-selection reform on the campaign trail and then sent his general counsel, Caleb Stegall, to testify in support of the legislation when it was before the Judiciary Committee.

Iowa: I also reported that Iowa governor Terry Branstad was preparing to fill three Iowa Supreme Court vacancies, and that the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission had done its best to limit his options by nominating mostly Democrats and trial lawyers. Since my last post, Governor Branstad made the three appointments. Based on our analysis of the nominees, you can be confident that the governor chose the best three that he was given. One can’t say for certain that any of them will be committed originalists, but the alternatives were much worse.

More importantly, in my opinion, the Des Moines Register reports that Governor Branstad has announced his support for a constitutional amendment that would abolish Iowa’s Missouri Plan and replace it with the federal model. Iowa’s reform effort is young compared to those in Missouri, Kansas, and Tennessee, but the Iowa Supreme Court’s reckless behavior and the recent retention election have put its selection method on the front burner. All constitutionalists hope Governor Branstad will continue to lend his support to this important movement, because I am afraid it will otherwise be nearly impossible to eliminate the freewheeling liberal judicial activism that has plagued Iowa.

Congratulations to Governor Brownback and Governor Branstad for standing up to the legal establishment, the Soros network of Missouri Plan boosters, and the well-heeled trial lawyers who see this method of selection as their perpetual ATM machine.

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