Archive for Thursday, April 14, 2005

Kansas judiciary coming under fire

April 14, 2005

News this week that the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Industry will begin compiling and making public an analysis of the decisions of judges across the state is another in a series of disturbing events surrounding the judiciary.

In and of itself, an analysis of judicial decisions causes no harm. The chamber says its only purpose is to inform the public. But the group's CEO and president, S. Lewis Ebert, says the first analysis - which will target members of the Kansas Supreme Court - will make clear which justices are good for business and which are not.

Judges, like other public officeholders, are not and should not be immune from criticism. Likewise, their records should be held up to public scrutiny.

From county district courts to the Kansas Supreme Court, judges in Kansas are appointed to the bench by the governor. The process is largely nonpartisan in nature. Judges don't stand election, per se, but do appear on ballots periodically for a retention vote. It's a system that has worked well in Kansas.

If the chamber wants to lobby the Legislature to change the state constitution and politicize the state's judiciary, it's free to do so. It might find ears willing to listen. Already the Legislature is considering whether to require that appointees to the state high court first receive confirmation from the Kansas Senate.

But the chamber is being disingenuous at best when it says its motives are pure and its sole purpose is to inform the public.

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