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Masterson Motion to Debate SCR 1610 Regarding Judicial Selection for the Kansas Supreme Court

On early Sunday morning, just as the Veto Session was wrapping up, Senator Ty Masterson a motion to bring SCR 1610 up for debate when the Senate returns on Sine Die on May 29th. Per Senate rules, the motion will be voted on at that time. Here is the submitted motion: Pursuant to Senate Rule 11, I move to withdraw Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 1610 from the Committee on Judiciary and the bill be placed on the calendar under the order of business General Orders. SCR 1610 is a Constitutional Amendment that reforms our judicial selection system for the Kansas Supreme Court by using a system similar to the federal model. The governors would select Supreme Court nominees of their choice and that nomination would be subject to Senate confirmation. The purpose of this motion is to allow for a debate and vote on this critical reform on the floor in this legislative session. The issue of Judicial Selection Reform has been before this body going all the way back to 2005 when Senator Wagle and then Senator, now Attorney General, Schmidt sponsored SJR 1606 which would have made Senate Confirmation part of the Supreme Court selection process. Over the past 15 years various proposals to reform our flawed lawyer controlled system have been discussed in great detail. The reasons for this motion is that in the last few weeks two separate occurrences have made it clear that Kansas can simply wait no longer to repair its broken Supreme Court selection process: First, we had the embarrassing spectacle of the nomination of Judge Jack, who would be on the Kansas Court of Appeals if not for the fact we adopted the federal model for that court several years ago. The current governor used a nominating commission to recommend Judge Jack, but it was only the reality of Senate Confirmation that saved the people of Kansas from that deeply flawed nomination. Second, just last week, the Kansas Supreme Court inserted an un-fettered right to abortion into our 1859 State Constitution.. As Justice Stegall noted in his dissent, “For the majority, the settled and carefully calibrated republican structure of our government must give way, at every turn, to [their] favored policy.” This ruling was made possible by a flawed system which is rigged to allow justices with radical judicial philosophies to be appointed to the Supreme Court without the check of Senate confirmation. Both of these instances highlight the need to immediately address our defective judicial selection system and let Kansans know where Senators stand. Do we stand for checks and balances, or do we stand for consolidating power in the hands of a few narrow interests? Do we stand for good government, or do we continue to allow a flawed system to perpetuate and produce even more extreme rulings and results? The nominating commission system is fundamentally flawed in several respects – the absence of Senate confirmation; the fact that the governor is forced to choose one of the three nominees or it goes to the Chief Justice; the fact no justice is ever not retained; and the makeup of the commission itself. While several states use some form of a nominating commission, Kansas is the only state in the nation where lawyers selected by other lawyers are a majority of the commission, thereby always controlling the process. The beauty of a Constitutional Amendment is that the people will ultimately decide. Do they want the current method, in which there are no checks and balances and lawyers selected by other lawyers control the system; and system that has produced a court of radical justices who hold the values of the people of Kansas in contempt? Or do they want the federal model, which has stood the test of time for the entirety of our nation’s history and has produced a balanced court in which judicial philosophies run the gamut? The Kansas Senate has debated this issue before; but recent events indicate the time has come to consider the issue again and vote on the matter before we adjourn.

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