TOPEKA, Kan. (Legal Newsline) -- A Kansas lawmaker has proposed a bill that would lower the retirement age for state Court of Appeals judges and state Supreme Court justices from 75 to 65.
According to the Huffington Post, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lance Kinzer's bill, House Bill 2415, would make the state's retirement age for those judges the lowest in the nation.
Under HB 2415, the retirement age for trial court judges would not be affected. They would still be forced to retire at 75.
The bill is set to be taken up by a House committee in January, when the legislative session begins.
State Rep. Barbara Bollier, a Republican like Kinzer, told the Post she thinks the bill is being pushed so Gov. Sam Brownback can appoint more judges.
Brownback, also a Republican, already has changed the state's process for nominating judges to the Court of Appeals.
Under the new law, enacted in March and signed into law by Brownback July 1, the clerk of the state Supreme Court is required to give prompt notice of a vacancy to the governor, who must then make an appointment within 60 days.
If the governor does not make the appointment within 60 days, the chief justice of the Supreme Court will appoint a qualified person for the position.
The Kansas Senate then must vote to confirm the appointment within 60 days of being received.
If the Senate is not in session and will not be in session within the 60-day time limit, it must confirm the appointment within 20 days of the next session.
If the Senate fails to vote within the time limit, its consent will be deemed given.
If the appointee does not receive a majority vote in the Senate, the governor would appoint another qualified person within 60 days, and the same consent procedure would be followed.
"This is not about controlling judges," Brownback said in March. "Judicial independence is vital and necessary for fair and just rulings from our courts. But judicial independence must rest firmly on the consent of the people. Public confidence is the best and only hedge around the independent judgments of our courts.
"We must give all Kansans an equal voice, whether directly or indirectly through elected representatives, in choosing our judicial leaders."
Prior to the new law, Court of Appeals judges were chosen by merit selection.
Under merit selection, a panel of lawyers and non-lawyers interviews applicants to be judges, checks their references and sends the most qualified finalists to the governor. The governor then selects one of the finalists to fill the vacancy.
The new process -- also known as the "federal process" -- is similar to how justices for the U.S. Supreme Court are appointed.
Brownback has promised his process would be open and transparent.
However, he has kept the names of those applicants for the 14th seat on the appeals court -- which was filled earlier this month -- secret, drawing the ire of many, including former state lawmakers and special interest groups.
To view a copy of HB 2415, click here.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.