An article about the desire of "conservatives" to change the merit system of selecting Kansas Supreme Court justices ("Kansas' justice-selection process unique," Aug. 10 Eagle) failed to mention that University of Kansas law professor Steve Ware is a principal spokesman for groups that want to control the selection process. It also failed to mention at least three other factors that should be weighed in considering the current merit-selection process.
First, the article accepted Ware's implication that lawyer members of the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission have some improper motive in the nomination process. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Lawyers have diverse interests. Some are prosecutors. Some are criminal-defense counsel. Some represent personal-injury plaintiffs. Some represent insurance companies. A vast majority of lawyers want judges and justices who are independent and impartial. They want their clients to receive a fair hearing. They do not want to be concerned that a judge or justice would be inclined to rule on the basis of either conservative or liberal views. There is no "lawyer's position" that is inconsistent with the public interest.
Second, Kansas statutes provide for more than 20 boards that deal with the qualifications of members of a profession. A majority of the members of these boards come from the ranks of the professions being licensed by the boards. Five members of the seven-member Board of Accountancy are accountants. Eleven members of the 13-member State Board of Technical Professions come from the technical professions. Three members of the five-member State Board of Mortuary Arts are embalmers. Twelve members of the 15-member State Board of Healing Arts are members of the medical profession. And so on.
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When establishing these boards, the Legislature recognized that members of a profession are in the best position to judge the qualifications of their peers. The citizens of Kansas made the same judgment when they adopted the constitutional amendment that took selection of Supreme Court justices out of the hands of politicians and special-interest groups.
Third, the proposed alternative to the current method of selecting justices would subject nominees to confirmation by the Kansas Senate. This would be a highly political, often hostile process. Congressional hearings on selection of U.S. Supreme Court justices have become a national disgrace. Nominees are subjected to extreme pressure to express opinions on controversial issues having nothing to do with actual qualifications.
In addition, I know from my experience as chairman of the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission that this process would discourage many well-qualified lawyers from applying for a position on our appellate courts.
Our current system has worked well for 50 years. No viable reason has been shown why it should be changed. I am confident that a majority of Kansans do not want to see this selection process return to the political arena.