With 13 days until Election Day, supporters of retaining Kansas Supreme Court justices are fully engaged in costly, sometimes ugly battles that involve radio and TV ads, yard signs and endorsements.
Voters need to keep the justices on Nov. 8.
If that doesn’t happen, Gov. Sam Brownback will make the final choices in 2017 on replacement justices who could serve years, if not decades, after his ruinous administration concludes in January 2019.
Those on the ballot are Chief Justice Lawton Nuss and justices Carol Beier, Dan Biles, Marla Luckert and Caleb Stegall. Stegall is the only Brownback appointee.
Kansans for Fair Courts is doing excellent work trying to get the word out about the justices, especially the first four on that list. They are being labeled “liberals” by opponents, which include the Kansas Republican Party, Kansans for Life and an organization that backs the death penalty. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of dollars are being raised and spent on what should be a slam-dunk decision for most Kansas voters.
In a noteworthy recent announcement, a bipartisan group of current and former mayors from some of the largest cities in Johnson and Wyandotte counties said they backed retention of the justices plus Kansas Court of Appeals judges from local counties: Karen Arnold-Burger, Steven Leben, Joseph Pierron, David Bruns and G. Gordon Atcheson.
The list of supporters included mayors Mike Boehm of Lenexa, Peggy Dunn of Leawood and Carl Gerlach of Overland Park plus former mayors Ed Eilert of Overland Park (current chairman of the Johnson County Commission), Carol Marinovich of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, and Laura McConwell of Mission.
Their thoughtful joint statement on retention said “maintaining fair and impartial courts that are free of political interference is critical for the long-term success of our communities. Our courts play a critical role in protecting the rights of local governments, businesses and citizens. We support a judicial system in Kansas that is free of political interference so our courts can continue to make rulings based on the constitution and the rule of law. We also believe that having three strong branches of government provides an essential system of checks and balances against government overreach into the lives of all Kansans and allows us to maintain local control.”
Opponents of the justices don’t often think about that last point, that the Supreme Court could be their protection against elected officials or others who try to shut them down.
In addition, two former Kansas attorneys general are backing retention of the Supreme Court justices. They are Republican Bob Stephan and Democrat Steve Six.
They made the excellent point that very few of the court’s decisions have been overturned. The claim to the contrary is being made by opponents.
“To go after somebody that’s done a great job — when there’s no showing of malfeasance — doesn’t make sense,” Stephan said.
Six added, “If you’re going in for heart surgery, you don’t want to throw the operating team with decades of experience out in favor of some new folks.”
Keeping with the bipartisan approach, four former Kansas governors endorsed retention last month.
Kansas voters should ignore the inaccurate claims that the justices are liberals intent on destroying the state Constitution. Or that they want murderers to walk the streets. That’s nonsense. Retain all five justices on Nov. 8.