Appeals court – Gov. Sam Brownback’s decision to conceal the names of applicants for the Kansas Court of Appeals is nothing short of outrageous. His misguided turn to secrecy disrupts decades of open-door access to judicial selection. It is another chapter of an ongoing attack on the state’s highly regarded nonpartisan judicial-nomination plan – an attack that already has netted the governor too much power over what is supposed to be an independent branch of Kansas government.
Gov. Sam Brownback should release the names of applicants for the Kansas Court of Appeals. Brownback’s decision to withhold the names is bad policy and bad politics. State government in Kansas needs more transparency, not less. If Brownback has a serious political problem, it is a sense among many constituencies that he does not care what they think. Along with that sense is the fear – now widespread – that he intends to try to take over the judicial branch of state government to advance his agenda.
State and national groups contend Gov. Sam Brownback’s decision not to make public the names of applicants for a new position on the Kansas Court of Appeals is a blow against transparency and shuts the public out of the selection process. They are right, and the Capital-Journal supports transparency in government and public participation. That said, no one here is surprised by the governor’s decision not to release the names, and no one else should be either. Like it or not, the law has been changed, and Kansas governors have the power to pick their nominees to the Court of Appeals without input from a nomination commission or the public. When a Democrat again occupies the Governor’s Office, we will be surprised if he or she doesn’t act much like Brownback is now.
In his so-called Road Map for Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback said: “Government should always be accountable to the people. Accountability begins with transparency.” While that sounded great, we’ve instead seen deliberate moves to keep Kansans in the dark. The most recent example came in the governor’s refusal to release the names of applicants for a new position on the Kansas Court of Appeals – even though names of candidates for the court and the state Supreme Court have been disclosed for decades in Kansas. The governor vowed to run an open and accountable administration. Unfortunately, he’s too often failed to practice what he preached.