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"Not Exactly"

Posted By Dennis D. Depew, Saturday, October 19, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 10, 2013

We can all think of events in our lives that turned out "not exactly” as we expected or were led to believe. The latest example of this is the process involved in selecting the 14th Court of Appeals judge. In selling the new method of selection, we were promised by its supporters that the new process would be far more transparent than the flawed, in their opinion, Merit Selection System that has been in use for more than 50 years for the Kansas Supreme Court and was also used for the Kansas Court of Appeals until this year. In practice, the new process turned out to be "not exactly” what we were promised by those who promoted and supported it.


Perhaps the single most unsettling development of the new process was the decision to abruptly end the 32-year precedent of releasing the names of all who applied for the position. For a process that was supposed to be more transparent than Merit Selection, the decision to not release the names of the applicants was a huge step backwards for the state of Kansas. No longer does a member of the public have the ability to review the names of the applicants and develop a personal opinion regarding the nominee. Fortunately, there was broad based consensus that the person nominated was, objectively, qualified for the position. Because of the secrecy, however, there developed a sense of distrust about the entire process. The elimination of one of the most important facets of transparency in the Merit Selection process was not what most were expecting when the new process was approved. Even some who supported the new selection method were taken aback by this shocking development. Did this decision support the claims of more transparency with the new process? "Not exactly.”


Now that we know the new process is "not exactly” what was promised, the next issue becomes the continued effort to have the new process applied to the Kansas Supreme Court. Based on what we have seen, the logical answer to that question is "not exactly.” The KBA will continue its efforts to preserve Merit Selection for the Kansas Supreme Court, as well as restore Merit Selection for the Kansas Court of Appeals. We need your help in this effort.


What steps can our members take to preserve Merit Selection? That answer is easy. Because there were not enough votes to pass the proposed constitutional amendment to change the Supreme Court selection method in the Kansas House in the 2013 regular session, there was never an actual vote like the one that passed by the required two-thirds majority in the Kansas Senate. There was, however, a vote in the Kansas House on HB 2019, which was the bill that brought the new selection method to the Kansas Court of Appeals. In the vote on HB 2019, the following representatives voted against changing the selection process: 


John Alcala (D-Topeka)

Stephen Alford (R-Ulysses)

Barbara Ballard (D-Lawrence) 

Steven Becker (R-Buhler) 

Barbara Bollier (R-Mission Hills) 

Carolyn Bridges (D-Wichita) 

Tom Burroughs (D-Kansas City) 

Sydney Carlin (D-Manhattan) 

Stephanie Clayton (R-Overland Park) 

Sue Concannon (R-Beloit) 

Paul Davis (D-Lawrence) 

Diana Dierks (R-Salina) 

Nile Dillmore (D-Wichita)

John Doll (R-Garden City) 

Blaine Finch (R-Ottawa) 

Gail Finney (D-Wichita) 

Stan Frownfelter (D-Kansas City) 

Bob Grant (D-Frontenac) 

Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita) 

Broderick Henderson (D-Kansas City) 

Jerry Henry (D-Atchison) 

Larry Hibbard (R-Toronto) 

Don Hill (R-Emporia) 

Dan Hineman (R-Dighton) 

Roderick Houston (D-Wichita) 

Russ Jennings (R-Lakin) 

Jim Kelly (R-Independence) 

Annie Kuether (D-Topeka) 

Harold Lane (D-Topeka) 

Nancy Lusk (D-Overland Park) 

Melanie Meier (D-Leavenworth) 

Julie Menghini (D-Pittsburg) 

Tom Moxley (R-Council Grove) 

Jan Pauls (D-Hutchinson) 

Emily Perry (D-Mission) 

Mike Peterson (D-Kansas City) 

Tom Phillips (R-Manhattan) 

Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway) 

Louis Ruiz (D-Kansas City) 

Tom Sawyer (D-Wichita) 

Tom Sloan (R-Lawrence) 

Patricia Sloop (D-Wichita) 

Annie Tietze (D-Topeka) 

Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) 

Ponka-We Victors (D-Wichita) 

Jim Ward (D-Wichita) 

Virgil Weigel (D-Topeka) 

Brandon Whipple (D-Wichita) 

Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City) 

Kathy Wolfe Moore (D-Kansas City)

It is believed that Rep. John Wilson, who was absent for the vote on HB 2019, would have been a "no” vote had he been present.


All 125 members of the Kansas House will be up for election in 2014. The 51 people set out above are the reason we are not already scheduled to vote on a constitutional amendment changing the selection method for the Kansas Supreme Court. It is important that all legislators know where our membership stands on this issue, but it is critical that these 51 legislators know that the KBA membership supports their decision on the Merit Selection issue. Decisions are being or soon will be made to recruit candidates to run against these 51 legislators. Part of that decision-making process is to evaluate an incumbent’s campaign finance condition. Incumbents who have healthy campaign coffers are far less likely to draw a serious opponent than those with weak campaign finances. A critical reporting date for campaign finance is December 31, 2013. What a candidate has in his or her campaign account on that date could help determine whether that candidate will have a strong and well-financed opponent in 2014. If you support preserving Merit Selection for the Kansas Supreme Court and have the ability to financially support incumbents who have supported Merit Selection, then please consider making a donation to those incumbents sooner rather than later, so that your support is received before the December 31 reporting deadline. Remember that you can financially support any candidate, regardless if you reside in that candidate’s district.


In addition to financial support, contact incumbents who you support, and offer to assist with the campaign next summer and fall. That may include yard signs, bumper stickers, making phone calls, writing personal notes, etc. Even if you are not in a financial position to help, your time can also be a valuable addition to a campaign. Whether you support a legislator financially or otherwise, be certain that he or she knows the reason for your support. It never hurts to ask your legislator about his or her position on Merit Selection, as the "not exactly” experience we have all just lived through may have changed some minds of those who have previously supported a change in the selection process.


Merit Selection is not going away in the 2014 legislative session. The battle for the Kansas Supreme Court will be in the Kansas House. That battle will continue in the 2014 House elections. The continued independence of the Kansas Supreme Court hangs in the balance. Your efforts are appreciated. 

Tags:  Journal Article  Message  President Depew 

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