Protecting the Courts from Brownback

MainStream is a non-partisan organization. We advocate for moderate values, strong schools, good government, compassionate health care... those are the broad strokes. It does not matter to us what party you belong to, so long as those are the values you espouse. We understand that partisanship is difficult to overcome. Even the best among us can find it difficult to look past the labels. And sometimes, admittedly, even on moderate issues we don't see eye to eye.

That's why the outrageous attacks on the judicial branch of government sing so strongly to us. It does not matter where you fall on the spectrum of moderate issues with regard to this one. Unhappy with rulings handed down by the courts in education case, among others, the Governor has sought to gain control of this last branch of government. As related by MainStream member Tim Owens, then Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Governor said to him, "Tim, why can’t you go along with us on this judicial selection issue and let us change the way we select judges so we can get judges who will vote the way we want them to?"

"Judges who will vote the way we want them to."

Owens was among the many moderates ousted in the conservative sweep of the legislature in 2012. Since then, Governor Sam Brownback and his allies have launched unprecedented attacks on the Kansas courts, starting with the Governor's State of the State address in 2013. That address is where he first spoke about changing the process of selecting justices for the Kansas court system, noting that we used to select them a different way. Yes, in fact, the Kansas judicial selection process was changed by the people of Kansas to the current method in 1958, in reaction to the appointment to the court of Governor Hall in the "Triple Play" scandal. Brownback would have us return to that era of cronyism.

He has been relentless in his attempts to subdue the courts. Since 2013, there have been an unheard of fifty-five laws introduced attacking the courts! Just last session, an amendment to return judicial selection to a political appointment was introduced and narrowly defeated. That year also saw an attempt to expand judicial impeachment rationale to include everything short of "they don't vote the way we want them to." And the session before, a law was passed that defunded the entire judicial branch of government, something never done before in any state!

But having failed to strip the courts of power, the Governor and his allies have begun a concerted effort, paid for by special interests, to oust sitting judges, punishing them for not voting "the way we want them to."

Kansans won't have it. All five living former Governors of the State of Kansas, from both parties, have repudiated this direction. At an event in Kansas City, four of them gathered to speak with reporters about the issue, condemning the effort by the current Governor to co-opt the judicial branch. MainStream was there as a partner with other groups, and we will continue to fight for this effort.

On the ballot this Fall are five Supreme Court Justices. They are standing for retention, a process of affirming that a sitting judge should remain in their position. Having failed in their attempts to cajole the courts, to threaten the courts, and to amend the Kansas Constitution to neuter the courts, they have now decided to clear the judicial bench in hopes of getting someone more malleable next time.

This is... well, it's reprehensible. It is so bold as to be laughable. It's less believable than a Bond villain's scheme. But here it is.

On the Fall ballot, we need every voter to vote all the way to the bottom. Better yet, start at the bottom, and vote your way up! You may believe your selection of President may not have much impact in Kansas, but your choices at the very bottom of the ballot could affect generations of Kansans to come.

Vote to retain all the judges on November 8. You'll find them at the bottom of your ballot.

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