Susan Wagle: Let Kansans have their say about judges
To all Kansans,
One of the final responsibilities of the Kansas Senate during the 2020 Special Session was to consider Gov. Laura Kelly’s nominee to the Court of Appeals. Many concerns have been expressed that the Senate did not approve his nomination because of his involvement in defending some very heinous criminal cases. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
This nominee was rejected because of his lack of experience and because during his nomination hearing, senators could not lay to rest the concern that he would be another “activist” judge, re-writing Kansas law. If you’re in doubt, listen to his full testimony during the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on June 2 at 1:30 p.m. which is still available at www.kslegislature.org.
The Legislature has recently had to reconcile two new decisions from the Kansas Supreme Court: One which overturned caps on non-economic damages, raising costs of insurance on homes, cars, businesses and health care providers; and a second decision which made abortion a “fundamental” right, overturning reasonable restrictions on late-term abortions and ultimately setting up Kansas taxpayers to pay for abortions through our Medicaid program.
These rulings left the Legislature wary of nominees coming from a liberal Democrat governor who agrees with these activist decisions.
Our judicial nomination system is broken in Kansas. The Nominating Committee, which forwards the names of candidates to the governor, is stacked with a majority of attorneys appointed by the Kansas Bar Association. These same trial attorneys practice their profession before the very judges they nominate to the bench.
Kansans are tired of a broken system that propagates insider privileges. They want accountability and transparency. They want a fair judicial system with judges who care about the little guy who lacks wealth and power.
They care about protecting the unborn in the womb; they care about the small business owner whose insurance and liability costs have gone through the roof with the COVID crisis; and they are, most of all, tired of lifetime appointed judges who think they are above our constitution and use their position to re-write laws.
It’s time to bring true accountability into our judicial nominating system. It’s time to give the people of Kansas total transparency by allowing them to vote for or against Supreme Court justices.
For years, we have tried to fix our Kansas nominating system but haven’t been able to break the Kansas Bar Association’s tight grip. It’s time to turn the question over to the people. Do you want to have a say in who serves on the bench? Absolutely! It’s time …
Susan Wagle is the Kansas Senate president.