by Senator Jean Schodorf
Recently, Chief Justice Nuss asked incoming Speaker Ray Merrick if he could address the legislature to talk about the State of the Judiciary. Speaker Merrick declined by saying “It’s just another thing to take up time. I think it’s time that could be put to better use on other things.” He added for Nuss to put it in writing.
We suggest that it would be a good thing for legislators to hear from the Chief Justice. For the last few years, he has tried hard to inform citizens and legislators about the difficult job of serving justice for citizens when the courts are faced with decreased funding and on other issues like one judge, one county. Actually, at 6:30 in the evening, when Nuss would speak, there is nothing for legislators to be doing, except maybe going out to dinner with lobbyists. So, which would you rather have your Legislators do—learn about the Judiciary issues or go to dinner with lobbyists?
However, there is another reason, I believe, and we want to alert you to upcoming hearings on changing judicial selection. It is expected that a proposal will be made to give the Governor more power in selecting judges. The day after the State of the State address, hearings will start in House Judiciary on Jan. 16 for proponents and Jan. 17 for opponents and Jan. 22 for both. It is believed that this issue is being put on the fast track to be passed by Jan. 31, so the question can be put on the ballot for the April elections. Representative Lance Kinzer is chair of the Judiciary Committee. In the coming days we will have a more in depth analysis of the proposed changes to judicial selection by a republican and a democrat expert.
This leads us to our first call to action. Please be sure to contact members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to share your thoughts. Also, please contact your representatives to encourage them to support an independent judiciary.
To encourage Representative Merrick to give Chief Justice Nuss time to speak please contact his office at 1-785-296-2302 or email him at email@example.com.
If you would like to find your representatives you may use this handy tool at OpenKansas.org.
For more information on this story and judicial selection check out Rhonda Holman’s editorial from the Wichita Eagle here.