Archive for Thursday, October 14, 2010

Letter to the editor: Vote for more public input

October 14, 2010

To the editor:

Kansas is alone in its judicial selection process. No other state provides lawyers and bar associations a dominating role in the judicial nomination process like Kansas. 

The Kansas Bar Association selects the majority of the nominating commission members. The nominating commission picks three nominees and the governor chooses one, that’s it. Nominations and selections are virtually done behind closed doors.

The problem is that the people’s voice in the selection of judges is weak or non-existent. It’s like a baseball game where lawyers are one team and the people are the other team. The difference is, in this game, the lawyers get to pick the referees. It makes no difference who the governor is or what party he or she belongs to, because the lawyers pick the nominees and the governor must pick one. It’s not unusual to see the governor pick a nominee who has made contributions to their election campaign or party.

Ballot questions on retention occur once every four years. This retention vote, should judge “whoever” be retained, should not be confused with the election process, because these judges are unchallenged.

Kansans have a big problem when it comes to appointed judges who legislate from the bench or who fail to follow the letter of the law. The only way to remove an appointed activist judge from office is to vote not to retain that judge — something that has been done only once in Kansas history. Why? The answer is simple. There is little public information about appointed judges or their record on the bench. 

The people in counties where judges are elected have the opportunity to look at judicial performance and ask some very basic questions of those seeking to be elected. What is their judicial philosophy? Have they stuck to the letter of the law or did they override the will of the people? Currently in Kansas, the people in half of our counties elect judges, the other half have them appointed. The 1st Judicial District in Kansas is comprised of Leavenworth and Atchison counties. Voters in those counties will have the opportunity to vote “yes” to elect their district court Judges or “no” to continue having judges appointed for them.  

Edward O’Brien



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