NEJC reps all vote against proposal to amend state constitution on judicial selection


A vote in the Kansas House on a proposed constitutional amendment that would have given the governor more control over Kansas Supreme Court appointments did not succeed and northeast Johnson County representatives lined up against the amendment.

Supreme Court justice appointments now pass through a nominating committee that screens the applications and sends three finalists to the governor for his selection. The change, backed by Gov. Brownback and some Republican legislators, would have eliminated the nominating committee and let the governor choose the justices subject to Senate confirmation.

Reps. Melissa Rooker, Stephanie Clayton, Barbara Bollier and Jarrod Ousley all voted against HCR 5005 that proposed the constitutional amendment to allow the change. The proposal was defeated because an amendment requires a two-thirds vote in favor. The vote was 68-54 in favor, short of the two-thirds required.

Rep. Rooker said the amendment would “reverse the will of the people.” The merit system, she said, was installed in the 1950s to “rid the courts of cronyism and corruption.”

“Make no mistake: my vote has infuriated the lobbyists and politicians in Topeka who didn’t get their way. The tactics they are using – and will continue to use come election time – are dishonest and destructive. You didn’t elect me to cast votes out of fear of negative election postcards and what’s best for special interest groups in Topeka. You elected me to make the tough votes which protect our families, communities, and quality of life,” Rooker said in her constituent email.

“The bill would have placed an unprecedented amount of power in the hands of the Governor, and I did not feel that it was best to politicize a branch of government that should remain impartial,” Clayton said.

Clayton also indicated some backlash is expected from the vote and that it will be used in postcards during the upcoming election.

Opponents of the measure had said the vote was designed to be used as an election-year issue against moderate Republicans and Democrats.