Monday, March 4, 2013
A LESSON ABOUT MERIT SELECTION OF JUDGES FROM THE ASSASSINATION OF LEON JORDAN
The assassination of Kansas City, Missouri civil rights activist and State Representative Leon Jordan on July 15, 1970 carries a message to Republicans in the Kansas Legislature: Don't politicize judicial elections.
One of many factors for Jordan's death was his failure to make an accommodation on behalf of a member of Kansas City's "black mafia with a judge who owed allegiance to Jordan's political organization, Freedom Incorporated.
Lord Acton is well known for the adage “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupt absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.”
When powerful elements want favor, they can get it from a partisan judiciary that owes its allegiance to the whims of the ballot box. An independent judiciary, free from partisan political pressure, is insulated from granting favor and perverting the role of justice in society.
Currently Kansas has merit selection of judges. Under existing law, vacancies in the Court of Appeals are filled by appointment of the Governor from a panel of three nominees who have been determined to be qualified to serve as judges of the Court of Appeals by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission.
Kansas did not come to merit selection of judges willy-nilly. In 1956 Democratic candidate for Governor, George Docking, Republican Warren Shaw, who had defeated Republican Governor Fred Hall in the primary. Chief Justice Smith then resigned due to ill health. Hall resigned from office and his Lieutenant Governor, John McCuish took the oath of office becoming Governor. McCuish immediately appointed Hall to replace Smith on the Kansas high court. The political scandal was called the triple play.
It is imperative to keep politics and the potential for corruption out of selecting appellate judges in Kansas. A bill, H.B. 2019 is matriculating through the legislature with the intent of abolishing the merit selection of appellate court judges. Let your Representative know that you oppose H.B. 2019.