We are so lucky in Kansas to have a nominating commission to select qualified people to sit on our Supreme Court. The commission must submit a list of three qualified individuals to the Governor of Kansas.¹
But Governor Sam Brownback wants to change that. He and Kansas legislators have already changed the nomination process for appellate court justices. No more nominating commission. The Governor gets to pick his own nominee. All that is left is for the senate to confirm the nomination.
Our Governor has already selected his chief counsel, Caleb Stegall, to become a member of the Kansas Court of Appeals, only one step down from the Supreme Court. Stegall had tried before to get a spot on the court of appeals but was turned away by the nominating committee that vetted all the nominees.
Here’s why a nominating commission is so important.
Our present Supreme Court has ruled that tougher federal air emission standards must be met, a huge health gift to the citizens of Kansas, if a new Holcomb, Kansas coal-fired power plant were to be built.
You may remember Governor Kathleen Sebelius vetoed legislation to build the plant because, even back then, it didn’t meet the required regulations. Then, in 2010, Rodney Bremby, Kansas Secretary of Health and Environment, denied building permits, royally angering Kansas legislators, Sunflower Electric Power Corporation, and their lobbyists. The reason, of course, was money. It would cost Sunflower mega-bucks to comply with federal toxic air emission regulations.
Bremby was fired for his trouble, and we lost a smart, talented, and honest government employee. Of course the whole project was poisoned politically from the time Mark Parkinson was selected Governor to take Sebelius’s place.
Imagine how this and other such issues might turn out if Governor Brownback (or any governor) is allowed to choose the members of his state’s Supreme Court.
¹.In Kansas, “the Commission is composed of five lawyer members and four non-lawyer members. One lawyer and one non-lawyer member must be from each of Kansas’ congressional district and one additional lawyer member who serves as the chairperson. Lawyer members are elected by their peers in each individual congressional district while the non-lawyer members are appointed by the governor.