“Lawmakers may change how Kansas Supreme Court justices are picked as redistricting case looms”

The Topeka Capital-Journal makes an appearance:

Lawmakers are considering changes to a six-decade-old system of selecting judges to the Kansas Supreme Court, at a time when the high court is on the cusp of hearing a landmark challenge to a set of GOP-authored congressional maps.

Republican legislators insist the renewed push to end so-called merit selection of judges is unrelated to the redistricting lawsuits percolating through the court system, which are all-but-certain to eventually arrive at the supreme court.

Instead, they argue the move is needed to ensure Kansans have a voice in selecting jurists on the state’s highest court, either directly or via members of the Kansas Senate.

“It needs to be looked at regardless … of what is happening today or yesterday or might happen tomorrow,” Sen. Kellie Warren, R-Leawood, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters. “The people of Kansas want to be ensured that the equal, third branch of government, the judiciary, is of and by and for the people.”

But supporters of the current system, including many legislators, lawyers and the Kansas Bar Association, argue officials shouldn’t attempt to fix what isn’t broken — potentially letting politics take over the court system….

A screening panel, comprised of attorneys and non-lawyers from each of the state’s four congressional districts, vets applicants for positions and selects a slate of approved options. The governor then picks the appointment from those choices, though court of appeals justices also must be approved by the Kansas Senate.

A year after a judge is appointed, an appellate court justice must stand for retention in the next general election and then similar votes are held at the end of each six year term.

Republicans are pushing two distinct constitutional amendment, both of which would effectively end the merit selection process.

One would move to direct election of judges, something only eight states do for their high courts, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The other would mirror the process used for U.S. Supreme Court nominations, where the governor would select a justice and they would undergo Senate confirmation.

Proponents for change argue Kansas is outside the bounds of what is done even in other states that use a merit selection system, arguing no one else allows the bar association to pick a majority of nominating commission members.

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