Elections

Former governors working to keep state Supreme Court justices

Four former Kansas governors, including Mike Hayden, right, and John Carlin, will campaign on behalf of retaining state Supreme Court justices next week.
Four former Kansas governors, including Mike Hayden, right, and John Carlin, will campaign on behalf of retaining state Supreme Court justices next week. File photo

Four former Kansas governors will campaign on behalf of retaining state Supreme Court justices ahead of November’s general election.

Republicans Mike Hayden and Bill Graves will join Democrats John Carlin and Kathleen Sebelius at private events in Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita next week to promote retaining the five justices on the ballot this year.

“They will encourage Kansans to keep Kansas courts nonpolitical and nonpartisan,” said a release from Kansans for Fair Courts, the group organizing the campaign.

Their appearances will be closed to the public but open to the media and invited guests.

Several organizations, including Kansans for Life and the Kansas Republican Party, have backed a campaign to oust four of the justices up for retention this year. If they succeed, it will allow Gov. Sam Brownback to appoint a majority of the seven-member court’s justices. The only justice those groups seek to retain is Caleb Stegall, who was appointed to the court by Brownback in 2014.

All of the other justices up for retention were appointed by either Graves or Sebelius. They are Carol Beier, Dan Biles, Lawton Nuss and Marla Luckert.

Kansans for Justice, formed by friends and family of victims of the Carr brothers, released a statement late Friday afternoon noting that the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned Kansas Supreme Court rulings on the death penalty seven times since 2000. It said the state court’s “disregard for victims’ right to justice” meant “not one of these murderers and rapists has received the death sentence they earned.”

The group added: “We are confident if any of these four governors were treated as poorly as these four Kansas Supreme Court justices treated us, the governors would be less hostile to our cause.”

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3

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