Legislative Update From Rep. Francis
KSCB News - February 8, 2016 3:47 pm
This week the Legislature debated a controversial Constitutional amendment that would have dismantled the Kansas
system of judicial selection and replaced it with the same system being used in Washington for our federal courts. The
days leading up to the debate on this amendment have been filled with a hefty share of political games and pressure.
But, our Kansas Constitutional system, which has given us fair and impartial courts through three separate but equal
branches of government for more than a century, is too important to throw away.
I voted to protect our Kansas system of judicial selection. Here’s why:
Kansas and 23 other states use merit selection to ensure fair and impartial courts.
As Americans, we are granted the
right to a fair trial. Our founding fathers recognized that a fair trial – even when it involves trying our most heinous
criminals – can only be accomplished through fair and impartial courts. Our system isn’t perfect but – unlike the federal
system – it is designed to be transparent, accountable and safeguarded from political influence. That’s why Kansas along
with 23 other states use what’s known as the merit selection model for selecting judges.
Under merit selection, justices are vetted by an independent commission that considers each nominee’s legal experience
and qualifications. The Kansas commission, which is made up of five attorneys and four citizens, then recommends the
three most qualified nominees to the Governor for his consideration. The Governor selects which nominee shall be
appointed to the court. While the merit selection model gives the Governor a key role in the process, it does not grant
the Governor’s office a blank check to appoint friends and political allies at will.
If you found yourself in a courtroom, would you feel safest knowing the judge was chosen based on experience and
qualifications? Or knowing the judge was picked by politicians based on who his friends were or how much money he
gave in political contributions?
I believe the checks and balances we have in place to prevent politics in our courts is critical to making sure all Kansans
get a fair shake in court, regardless of their political beliefs or the size of their bank account.
Merit selection was implemented by Kansas voters to prevent corruption.
Kansas voters purposefully put our current
system in place to derail corruption that had worked its way into courts across the country in the 1950s, including our
Kansas courts. It became clear that concentrating too much power in the hands of one person or in the hands of one
branch of government was a slippery slope that too easily allowed for cronyism and corruption. Because of that, Kansas
voters reacted by approving the merit selection process we have today. As voters, we continue to have the final say with
the option to retain or remove the justices every cycle through the election process. The federal model that is being
pushed in Topeka places the majority of the power with politicians instead of the people.
Kansas voters have spoken on this issue time and time again. I do not believe the Legislature should attempt to override
the voters with a more secretive selection process that concentrates most of the power with the Governor and the
Senate. Our citizens are best served by our current system, which makes the court directly accountable to the people.
Safeguarding Kansas courts is not a pro-life issue.
Some of Topeka’s lobbyists are working hard to make the judicial
selection vote out to be a pro-life issue because they know that issue influences voters in our state. It’s important to note
there are enough pro-life votes in the Legislature to fully ban abortions in Kansas. But, instead of bringing an amendment
to ban abortion, these lobbyists are pushing for Kansas to implement the federal court model – the same model that
gave us the Roe v. Wade decision in the first place. Their tactic just doesn’t make sense to me.
But, what does make sense to me is keeping our judicial selection process transparent, keeping our judges accountable,
and making sure politics are not injected into our courts.
President Reagan said it best: “The independence of the courts
from improper political influence is a sacred principle. It must always be guarded.”
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. I encourage you to contact me with any questions or feedback at