Four Kansas Supreme Court justices are being attacked by forces that adamantly support the death penalty, zealously oppose abortion and want to make Gov. Sam Brownback a king when it comes to controlling the court’s future.
Kansas voters on Nov. 8 should reject this assault on the judiciary. They should retain Chief Justice Lawton Nuss and justices Carol Beier, Dan Biles and Marla Luckert — all of whom were appointed by previous governors of both political parties. Voters also should keep Caleb Stegall, a Brownback appointee.
Most voters don’t know what the four justices now being verbally assaulted in campaigns have done in the past few years. But the people who DO know — lawyers and other judges — have given all four justices high marks in the 2016 Judicial Review Survey. It’s worth reading. (Stegall got the lowest scores, fyi.)
Here are four reasons to keep the justices, starting with Brownback’s attempted power grab.
1. There is no way in hell that Kansans should give the governor the ability to have the final say on appointing up to four new Supreme Court justices. Brownback’s tax policies already have ruined the state’s economy, which will take years to rebuild. Now imagine his ultra-conservative, wrong-headed views being incorporated into rulings of the Supreme Court for many years to come. Voters properly are getting ready in November to send more moderate Republican and Democratic lawmakers to the Legislature to fix Brownback’s messes. But ousting competent judges would be a step backward.
2. Republican legislators and others are wrong to claim the court is bent on approving a large increase in public school spending. Yes, the court might find the state should be spending hundreds of millions of extra dollars on K-12 education each year. But the court, and lower ones as well, have put together painstaking decisions to get to the brink of this decision. Demeaning the justices as simply being “liberals” and “big spenders” is ignorant.
3. The group “Kansans for Justice” along with others in the GOP and conservative camps are attacking the justices for being soft on crime. It’s a selective charge, poppycock in nature. Their poster child case involves two murderers — the Carr brothers — who were sentenced to death only to have the Kansas court overturn their sentences (but not the convictions). The U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death sentences. It’s utterly ridiculous in a state where the death penalty hasn’t been carried out for more than 50 years to get rid of the justices based on their findings in any death penalty case.
4. Finally, anti-abortion groups led by Kansans for Life want to boot the justices because of their involvement in upholding laws that protect abortion rights. Here again, the justices are fighting to keep in place U.S. laws, endorsed by the U.S. Supreme Court, that allow abortions to occur in this country.
Kansans who want to protect competent Supreme Court justices will have to work extra hard in the next month to push back against these single-issue opponents. Retain the justices. Don’t let Brownback and his minions politicize the judicial system.