Prairie Politics

Sen. Pat Roberts calls lawmakers to support changing Kansas Supreme Court selection process

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas has been calling some state legislators, urging them to support a change in the Kansas Supreme Court selection process.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas has been calling some state legislators, urging them to support a change in the Kansas Supreme Court selection process. File photo

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts has been calling Kansas lawmakers, asking them to support changing the state’s Supreme Court selection process.

Rep. Susan Concannon, R-Beloit, said she received a voicemail from the senator asking her to support Gov. Sam Brownback’s efforts to change the selection process to what’s called the federal model. In that system, the governor would select a nominee who would go before the Senate for confirmation.

“It didn’t change my mind,” Concannon said.

Roberts’ office said he had contacted five or six lawmakers about changing the system. “Senator Roberts thinks Kansas needs a more democratic process for selecting justices,” the office said in an e-mail.

The state’s current system relies on a nonpartisan nominating commission, made up of members appointed by the governor and the state’s practicing lawyers. The commission chooses three nominees from a pool of applicants. The governor then selects one.

That system was adopted after former Gov. Fred Hall resigned from office in 1957 and was appointed to a vacancy on the court by his successor, an incident referred to as “the triple play.”

Concannon said the state’s current model protects against political gamesmanship.

“Sen. Roberts has been around long enough that he knows, he remembers the way it used to be,” Concannon said.

Brownback and other proponents of changing the selection process say the current system isn’t democratic. Two proposed constitutional amendments have been introduced in the Legislature. One would shift to the federal model and the other would move to direct election of Supreme Court justices.

Brownback made his first appointment to the court in August, choosing Caleb Stegall, his former chief counsel, over two other nominees.

Contributing: Brad Cooper of The Eagle

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or blowry@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.

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