Senate President Ty Masterson is proposing a constitutional amendment on judicial selection, which would change the manner in which Kansas Supreme Court justices are selected.
Under the current judicial selection method, justices are now selected following a screening process by a nine-member nominating commission made up of five lawyers and four non-lawyers. The five attorneys are nominated by fellow lawyers; one for each of the state’s four congressional districts, with the other lawyer chosen as the commission’s chairperson. The four non-attorneys are nominated by the governor; again one for each congressional district. The commission interviews prospective nominees in public forums. Three nominees are finally chosen; their names are forwarded to the governor for selection.
The map below from Ballotpedia shows Kansas is the only state with an assisted appointment method where the state bar association controls the process.
Senator Masterson has proposed giving the Legislature a choice of two alternatives, requiring approval of 2/3 in each of the House of Representatives and Senate. The amendment would then go before voters in August.
One option is the direct election model. Judicial hopefuls would campaign for office as any other candidate. The other is the federal model, based on how U.S. Supreme Court justices are approved. The governor would nominate a candidate, and the state Senate would vote on confirmation.
Masterson said in an emailed statement that believes either judicial selection option is an improvement over the current method.
”The current system of selecting Supreme Court justices in Kansas runs afoul of the American tradition of checks and balances and does not provide the people any real input in the judicial selection process. This has led to extreme rulings and the need for the Value Them Both amendment. Both the federal model and direct elections would correct this through familiar, well-tested methods in which accountability is a hallmark and Kansans have a voice.”
The Value Them Both amendment, which is already on the August ballot, reverses the Kansas Supreme Court opinion that created a nearly unlimited “right” to abortion.