Kansas lawyers are ready to relinquish some control over picking judges in hopes the process won’t be turned over to governors who might stack the courts with political soulmates, reports the Kansas City Star. With the Legislature ready to take up judicial selection as early as next week, the Kansas Bar Association is suggesting that lawmakers rework the way upper-level judges are nominated instead of revamping the entire system and letting Gov. Sam Brownback name judges who are confirmed by the Senate.
The method for picking upper-level judges has been controversial in Kansas because it depends on a nominating commission that has lawyers as a majority of its members. State appeals court judges are screened by a nine-member nominating commission that includes five lawyers, plus four non-attorneys named by the governor. The governor chooses from a list of three nominees selected by the commission. Nominees for the state Supreme Court are chosen the same way, but that procedure is harder to change because it’s set by the state constitution and would require a public vote along with support of two-thirds of the Legislature. Kansas is the only state that gives lawyers a majority control over the selection of judges, experts say.