Opinion Columns & Blogs

Poll casts doubt on support for high court reform

Gov. Sam Brownback said in 2013 “there is strong support for changing the system” of appellate judicial selection in Kansas, before persuading lawmakers to replace a merit-focused process for choosing Kansas Court of Appeals judges with one giving him more power. A new poll casts doubt on how much support there is for rewriting the state constitution to scrap the nominating commission, a group of lawyers and non-lawyers that vets Supreme Court applicants and recommends three names from which the governor chooses. In a survey of nearly 900 likely voters conducted for the national group Justice at Stake, 53 percent said they favored the current “merit-selection” system and 55 percent said they opposed amending the constitution so judges could be chosen in contested elections. And 76 percent said they opposed Brownback’s other federal-style proposal – that the governor pick justices on his own, subject to a Senate confirmation vote. Even if the use of the phrase “merit selection” tipped results toward the status quo, lawmakers have to wonder where the “strong support” for reform is among voters. – Rhonda Holman