Kansas judicial selection: The need for reform


Kansas University School of Law Professor Stephen J. Ware appeared on the KAKE Television public affairs program This Week in Kansas to discuss the method of judicial selection in Kansas. Phil Journey and Chapman Rackaway appear as panelists. Tim Brown is the host.

In today’s debate the issue of judicial selection reform is usually characterized as strictly political. Now that Kansas has a conservative governor and a conservative legislature, it is said that conservatives want to remake the courts to suit their ideology.

That may be the motivation for many. But Professor Ware has advocated for reform for a long time, favoring a system of appointment by the governor with confirmation by the senate. Ware’s 2007 research paper on this matter, published by the Federalist Society, may be read at Selection to the Kansas Supreme Court. The opening sentence of this report starkly states the singular character of the process in Kansas: “Kansas is the only state in the union that gives the members of its bar majority control over the selection of state supreme court justices.”

At the time Ware wrote this paper and convinced me of the need for reform, Democrat Kathleen Sebelius had just been re-elected Kansas Governor. The senate — which would confirm the governor’s appointments — was firmly in the control of political liberals and moderates who would be sure to rubberstamp her pick. Rubberstamp — that’s a word we see used today by progressives to describe the machinery of Kansas politics at the state level.

Another paper by Ware explains the problem with the process used in Kansas. The paper is titled Originalism, Balanced Legal Realism and Judicial Selection: A Case Study and may be downloaded at no charge.


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