Kansans for Life applauds all those pro-lifers who cast votes yesterday to oust activist justices on our state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. Sadly, we missed the mark.
And while all the targeted activists on the highest two courts kept their jobs, they only held on by small margins. KFL executive director, Mary Kay Culp said,
“For now we can only hope the judges have learned a powerful lesson to stop ‘legislating from the bench’… especially as they face the most important abortion lawsuit in our state’s history.”
KFL’s priority message, “reject all but Stegall,” focused on retention elections for five current Supreme Court Justices. Justices stand for retention every six years and cannot remain on the bench if they fall below 50% approval. Yesterday, voters only gave 55-56% support to Justices Lawton Nuss, Marla Luckert, Dan Biles and Carol Beier.
Justice Caleb Stegall received 71% support, which was deserved. Appointed in 2014, he has not been part of any Supreme Court abortion animus, nor was he part of all the decisions that were soundly overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Nuss– who is the only sitting Justice to have ever been admonished by the ethics oversight committee– has lost the most public support over the last twelve years. In 2004, retention figures were: Nuss 82.2%, Luckert, 76.5% and Beier, 76.4%. Biles was not yet on the court.
In 2010, after KFL called for pro-lifers to remove activist judges under the slogan,”Fire Beier,” the approval rating of all four justices dropped to 62-63%.
In 2012, our top judges began their own public relations campaign, in which they traversed the state to “connect” with the people. Members of both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals have since made hundreds of town hall educational presentations. They also have been the beneficiaries of pro-retention media campaigns and at least $540,000.00 in television ads this year (see here).
When it comes to abortion, the recent history of the Kansas Supreme Court has not been fair and impartial.(see here) They have twice ducked ruling on the most important abortion lawsuit in our state’s history– the ban on dismemberment-method abortions— until they could get past the Nov. 8th retention elections. In the interim, the Court of Appeals completely botched their ruling. The Court of Appeals was hopelessly divided on whether the state may ban brutal and inhumane procedures done on fully-formed unborn children.
Our KFL judicial initiative had a modest budget without funds for television or drive-time radio. We activated the grass roots and hosted the Better Judges for Kansas website. Included were essays (archived here) explaining abortion bias in the courts and how the court rulings are exasperatingly untethered from the state constitution.
Our secondary goal was ousting judges on the Court of Appeals who had indefensibly sided with abortion attorney’s invention of a state right to abortion, even broader than that of Roe v Wade.
The Court of Appeals is up for retention every four years. The judges up for retention Nov. 8 who claim our 1859 founders wanted to protect abortion are Steve Leben, G.Joseph Pierron, Karen Arnold-Burger and G. Gordon Atcheson. These four felt the public’s disapproval when they received only 59-60% support, down from 71-74% in 2012.
The two Court of Appeals judges on Tuesday’s ballot who had properly let our Kansas Constitution be their yardstick on the abortion issue were David Bruns and Kathryn Gardner. The public gave Bruns 72% support (75% in 2012) and Gardner, 73% (first election since appointment).
Our Kansas Bill of Rights rests on “the right to life,” yet there is still much to be done to protect the unborn in Kansas. We ask all those who joined with us on the issue of judicial retention to stay engaged and be encouraged, as the truth is on the side of life!