You’d think a $500 million budget hole might command their full attention. But some state lawmakers are spending time trying to fix something that isn’t broken — the selection process for judges to sit on the Kansas Court of Appeals. If their shortsighted and unneeded bill passes the House this week, after narrowly advancing out of the House Judiciary Committee on Monday, the Senate should just say “no.”
Under House Bill 2101, the governor would appoint individuals to fill vacancies on the Court of Appeals, subject to a Kansas Senate confirmation vote. The nine-member Supreme Court Nominating Commission no longer would vet candidates for merit or recommend three names to the governor, though the commission would continue to do that for openings on the Kansas Supreme Court as per the state constitution.
Proponents say the selection process would mirror the federal system. But why would Kansas want to mimic the federal model, with its shameless partisanship and politically stalled nominations?
Proponents, who also support amending the state constitution to change the Supreme Court selection, say the current system invests attorneys with too much influence. But the nominating commission includes four nonlawyers, who traditionally have played a vocal role. Besides, who better than practicing attorneys to assess the qualifications and potential of attorneys to be effective appellate judges?
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The Legislature should leave the Kansas Court of Appeals alone.