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Schlafly rails against appointed state judges

By Chris Rizo | May 9, 2008

Phyllis Schlafly

ALTON, Ill. (Legal Newsline)-Conservative author and commentator Phyllis Schlafly is touting a measure on the November ballot in Kansas that she says could "send shock waves" through the judiciary.

In Johnson County, voters will be asked in November whether they want to elect their judges to the Tenth Judicial District instead of having them chosen by local attorneys, a move Schlafly says will allow judges to be elected democratically rather than be appointed.

In Kansas, state court judges are picked through a variation of the Missouri Plan, which is used in 11 states to provide a mix of appointed and elected members of the bench.

When there are judicial openings in Johnson County, the Tenth Judicial Nominating Commission meets to draft a list of nominees.

The nominating panel is comprised of seven attorneys elected by the Johnson County Bar Association and seven non-lawyers with one non-lawyer selected by each of the seven Johnson County Commissioners.

The group forwards its top three picks to the governor for him to make the appointment.

In an op-ed published Friday by WorldNetDaily, Schlafly said the bar-controlled process has "successfully placed on the bench a succession of liberal judges."

A similar process also fills openings on the state Supreme Court.

"Kansas gives its licensed lawyers an unusually powerful role in the selection of state Supreme Court justices," wrote Schlafly, founder and president of Eagle Forum.

She said when vacancies arise on the state Supreme Court, a nominating committee "secretly chooses" its three favorites and the governor must pick one of the three nominees.

"That's the whole process: no checking, no appeal, no oversight, no second opinion," she said.

The plan, she said, is intended to result in the nonpartisan selection of judges, but the commission selects judges based on the interests of the attorneys and their clients.

"Attorneys are a special-interest group just like any other group that aggressively lobbies for the interests of its members," she said. "In Kansas, the commission has had no shame about selecting judges who make political contributions to Democratic candidates."

She also chided Kansas judges for increasingly encroaching on territory traditionally left to the state Legislature, as when judges ordered lawmakers to appropriate hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to public schools.

"The appropriation of taxpayer funds, and the raising of taxes that this necessarily requires, should be a legislative, not judicial, function," she wrote. "The grabbing of spending and taxing powers by courts is a major reason why we call these judges supremacists."

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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