Finch votes with majority to protect Kansas system of judicial selection

By State Rep. Blaine Finch, 59th District, Franklin and Osage Counties

Greetings to all of you from Topeka. This week the Legislature voted down a controversial Constitutional amendment that would have dismantled the Kansas system of judicial selection and replaced it with the same system being used by D.C. politicians in our federal courts.

Recent weeks been wrought with political games and threats on this issue. Many struggled under pressure from Topeka lobbyists and the governor’s office, who pushed them to implement the dysfunctional federal system. But, our Kansas Constitutional system – which has granted us fair and impartial courts through three separate but equal branches of government for more than a century – is simply too important to throw away. That is why I voted against their attempt to dismantle the Kansas system.

Here is why I voted to protect our Kansas system of judicial selection:

Kansas and 23 other states use merit selection to ensure fair and impartial courts.

Under merit selection, Supreme Court justices are vetted by an independent commission that considers each nominee’s legal experience and qualifications. The Kansas commission, which is made up of five attorneys and four citizens, then recommends the three most qualified nominees to the governor for his consideration. The governor then selects which nominee shall be appointed to the court. While the merit selection model gives the governor a key role in the process, it does not grant him a blank check to appoint friends and political cronies at will.

Ask yourself this: If you found yourself in a courtroom, would you feel safest knowing the judge was chosen based on his legal experience and qualifications? Or knowing the judge was picked by politicians based on who his friends were or how much money he gave in political contributions?

I believe the checks and balances we have in place to prevent politics in our courts are critical to making sure all Kansans get a fair shake in court – regardless of their political beliefs or the size of their bank account.

Merit selection was implemented by Kansas voters to prevent corruption.

Kansas voters purposefully put our current system in place to derail corruption and political scandals. It became clear that concentrating too much power in the hands of one person or in the hands of one branch of government was a slippery slope that too easily allowed for cronyism and corruption. Because of that, Kansas voters reacted by approving the merit selection process we have today. As voters, we continue to have the final say with the option to retain or remove the justices every cycle through the retention election process. The federal model that is being pushed in Topeka concentrates the majority of the power with politicians instead of the people.

Safeguarding Kansas courts is not a pro-life issue.

Topeka lobbyists are working hard to make the judicial selection issue out to be a pro-life issue because they know that influences voters. They have already indicated they will tell Kansas voters that any legislator who voted against the judicial selection bill is not pro-life. I think that’s disgraceful. I encourage you to consider these facts: There are enough pro-life votes in the Kansas Legislature to fully ban abortions in Kansas, yet instead of pushing for a ban on abortions, the lobbyists are pushing for Kansas to implement the federal court model – the same model that gave us the Roe v. Wade decision in the first place.

Don’t be fooled. My voting record in support of pro-life legislation speaks for itself and I remain committed to upholding our community’s pro-life values. This vote was about keeping our courts transparent, keeping our judges accountable, and keeping Washington, D.C.’s dysfunctional politics out of Kansas.

The bottom line is this: corruption and politics do not belong in our courts. Ronald Reagan summed it up much better than I can – “The independence of the courts from improper political influence is a sacred principle. It must always be guarded.” The fight will not end here. Those in Topeka who didn’t get their way will be relentless in their pursuit to accumulate more power. But for now, our Kansas courts are guarded from government overreach and improper political influence.

Thank you for the privilege of serving you. I welcome your questions and concerns on this or any other issue being debated in Topeka. Please contact me any time at 785-296-7655 or [email protected].

 
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