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Kansas coalition, Kassebaum urge retention of appellate justices, judges on ballot

By: - October 25, 2022 8:27 am
A coalition of attorney groups and former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum recommend voters support retention of all Kansas Supreme Court justices and Kansas Court of Appeals judges on the Nov. 8 ballot. (Thad Allton for Kansas Reflector)

A coalition of attorney groups and former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum recommend voters support retention of all Kansas Supreme Court justices and Kansas Court of Appeals judges on the Nov. 8 ballot. (Thad Allton for Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — A coalition of five organizations representing more than 5,000 practicing lawyers recommended Kansans vote to retain all Kansas Supreme Court justices and Kansas Court of Appeals judges on statewide ballots Nov. 8.

The Kansas Bar Association, Kansas Women Attorneys Association, Kansas Trial Lawyers Association, Kansas Women Attorneys for Freedom and Kansas Association of Defense Counsel said voters ought to support retention of all six Supreme Court members on the ballot.

Seven of the state’s Court of Appeals judges face yes-or-no retention votes on the ballot, and the coalition said Kansans should affirm their positions.

“These judges were appointed by five Kansas governors, both Republicans and Democrats, over the past
30 years,” the coalition said in a statement. “We urge Kansas voters to ignore the political and special interest groups targeting our appellate courts.”

“We believe appellate court judges should be free to perform their duties fairly and impartially. Judges should not be influenced by partisanship or popularity when deciding controversial cases,” the coalition said.

The coalition said members of these organizations with judicial and other governmental positions didn’t
take part in issuing the statement on the retention question.

A campaign to oust certain justices of the Supreme Court emerged as part of an effort to prompt decisions favorable to anti-abortion activists. The judicial retention votes follow rejection in the August primary of a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution declaring women didn’t have a state constitutional right to bodily autonomy or abortion.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Derek Schmidt and GOP attorney general candidate Kris Kobach have touted elimination of the merit-based process leading to appointment of Supreme Court justices by the governor. Instead, the state could adopt a federal model with governors submitting Supreme Court nominees for confirmation votes by the Kansas Senate.

Former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, a Republican, said voters in Kansas would be properly served by supporting each appellate court member on the ballot “and resist any efforts to change the system” of filling vacancies on the state Supreme Court.

“As a non-lawyer, I believe that it is extremely important that our judges be non-political, nonpartisan and fully qualified,” Kassebaum said. “The current system of appointing appellate judges in Kansas has worked well and brought to the appellate bench many highly qualified judges.”

Retired U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Deanell Reece Tacha, appointed to the federal court by President Ronald Reagan, said in a statement issued by Keep Kansas Courts Impartial that she would vote to retain each of the 13 state appellate court members.

“They have done an exemplary job of  protecting the rights of all Kansans and deserve our support,” she said. “The executive and legislative branches are political by nature, which makes it critical that our judicial branch remain impartial and free from political pressure, interest groups or financial  concerns.”

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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