Elections truly have consequences, but Kansas attorneys have the most unrestricted power of any state in the union to hand-select state Supreme Court justices. (see details and comparisons to other states at Kansas Watchdog)
The Kansas Supreme Court is composed of 7 justices: 2 appointed by Gov. Bill Graves, 4 by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, and, as of this week, in the closing months of his term, abortion-supporting Gov. Mark Parkinson will pick a replacement for recently deceased Chief Justice Robert Davis (an appointee of pro-life Gov. Joan Finney).
Theoretically, these justices pledge to be neutral and uphold the state Constitution. But consider the actual actions of a Sebelius-majority Court:
- the Court’s repeated pro-abortion-industry interventions,
- Justice Beier’s rant and insistence on sanctions against AG Phill Kline (decried by Davis and then-chief Justice MacFarland) in the 2005 Alpha “clinic files” decision, and
- the current 15-month delay on the Planned Parenthood criminal case.
KFL has been supportive of changing the way Kansas seats supreme court justices so that the nominated justice undergoes scrutiny and confirmation by the state senate, which would mirror the federal protocol. (SCR1606 in 2005, SCR1619 in 2008 and SCR1612 in 2009)
Currently, the Kansas governor merely selects one name from three nominees supplied by a committee, of which 5 of the 9 committee members are governor-appointees!
This kind of power allows undue influence of the state’s administrative branch over the judicial branch on a number of issues, particularly abortion— which has become a creature largely controlled by court actions.
In 1973, when state legislatures were beginning to pass abortion bans, the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision took the abortion issue away from individual states and the democratic process. In that decision, a hidden “Constitutional” privacy right to abortion was asserted, and it has taken decades of legal actions to modify that disputed right.
Every 4 years, pro-lifers are reminded that the new president’s politics will be manifest in his nominees for lifetime chairs on the U.S. Supreme Court— nominations that will likely sail through the U.S. Senate.
So why would KFL support a state reform for Kansas senate confirmation of the governor’s Court nominee when the U.S. Senate usually upholds the president’s nominee? Because the scrutiny of the nominee is invaluable and educational in all these scenarios:
- The potential of a spotlight on the nominee, revealing a record of inappropriate decisions or unsavory political ties can, in itself, dissuade the nomination from coming forward.
- Depending on the Senate’s partisan majority of that year, objections can result in rejecting the nominee. (e.g. Harriet Miers in 2005, Robert Bork in 1987).
- If the nominee is confirmed despite significant Senate objections, the public can take action at ballot boxes.
New U.S. Justice Elena Kagan is such an example. Legal action seeking to disbar her is already underway, based on alleged falsities in her testimony to the Senate about rewriting official medical policy on partial birth abortion—resulting in thousands of unwarranted post-viability abortions.
Illegal late-term abortion provision in Kansas should have been shut down long ago and the Sebelius-majority state Supreme Court shares significant blame for that not happening. Senate confirmation will not cure everything, but it is an important necessary step to correcting pro-abortion judicial activism.