Judge denies request to stop Kansas Supreme Court nominating process

WICHITA — A federal judge has denied a request to stop the way Kansas Supreme Court justices are selected.

U.S. District Judge Monti Belot issued an order today refusing to grant a temporary restraining order against a nominating committee charged with selecting finalists for a vacancy on the Kansas Supreme Court.

The request to halt the current process was spurred by a lawsuit from four Kansas voters who said the committee denied them a voice in the selection process. The nominating committee, consisting of five attorneys and four citizens, reviews applications, conducts interviews and nominates three finalists to the governor, who makes the final appointment.

Belot said a preliminary injunction to stop the process was not in the public interest, would interrupt a status quo in place since 1958 and would result in no irreparable harm.

The judge also said the parties bringing the suit, represented by Indiana lawyer James Bopp Jr., had not demonstrated they would succeed on their claims at trial.

Belot said a temporary restraining order would prevent the nominating commission from filling the vacancy on the Kansas Supreme Court left by the recent retirement and death of Chief Justice Robert Davis.

If the current selection process remains in place, nominations for Davis' replacement could be sent to Gov. Mark Parkinson by October. Parkinson, a Democrat, could name a new justice before the general election in November.

Today's order does not close the case. The next step in the process will be for Belot to consider a motion to dismiss the case awaiting legal briefs from the state.

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