Actions taken in three courts this week – one in Washington D.C. and two in Kansas – dramatically demonstrate the influence these courts wield over the lives of all Americans. These politically driven rulings further highlight the importance of how our judges are selected and retained in their positions.
As these cases show us, judicial selection matters. The people with authority to nominate justices matter.
As the Governor said in his 2015 State of the State address, “with the Court involving itself in so many public policy issues, it is time the selection process be more democratic.”
Here in Kansas, Judge Hendricks went against the will of a majority of Kansans, and their elected representatives. Senate Bill 95 passed with strong majorities: 31-9 in the Senate, with no Democrats supporting and 98-26 in the House with eight Democrats voting yes. He decided he alone knew what was best for Kansans and ruled that protections for abortion in the State of Kansas are generally in line with the U.S. Constitution with no regard for constitutional jurisprudence.
What this means is that, if his ruling is upheld, the Kansas Supreme Court could reduce or eliminate many of the protections of human dignity we now enjoy in Kansas. Even more concerning, Judge Hendricks is laying the groundwork to create a state constitutional right to an abortion just like Roe v. Wade, free from any limitation, in Kansas. No single judge should be allowed to change the will of the people with the stroke of a pen based upon his or her own political preferences.
Similarly, the legalization of same-sex marriage at the federal level is a prime example of a judiciary unrestrained by the rule of law. Activists courts should not overrule the people of this state, who have clearly supported the Kansas Constitution’s definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.
Moreover, the three-judge panel has once again violated its Constitutional authority by invalidating the K-12 block grant mechanism, even though K-12 funding is at an all-time high. The panel has determined, on its own accord, that it possesses the right to commandeer the authority constitutionally afforded to the legislative and executive branches of state government. In doing so, it has replaced the judgment of Kansas voters with the judgment of unelected activist judges
The rule of law should always take priority over the personal political preferences of judges. Just as the Governor has a responsibility to appoint judges who will observe the rule of law and honor the Kansas Constitution, citizens have a right and duty to make their voices heard when a judge or justice stands for a retention vote.