Judiciary

Suit Seeks to Block Appointment of Kansas Supreme Court Judge


The supremely successful election-law gadfly, provocateur and mover-and-shaker James Bopp Jr. is at it again, already. The earth is still trembling from the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year, in a case Bopp developed, that the First Amendment protects unlimited corporate spending on independent campaign advertising, in Citizens United v. FEC.

Now, Bopp has returned to one of his favorite issues, judicial elections. (Bopp’s extensive work challenging election laws was detailed in a profile “The Big Bopper” in the ABA Journal in 2006.)

On Thursday, he filed suit in a federal court in Kansas challenging the privileged role given lawyers in selecting nominees for vacancies on the state supreme court and its appeals court. The system was devised under the state constitution to limit the role of politics in the judiciary by avoiding direct judicial elections, the Wichita Eagle reports.

Five of the nine members of the Kansas Supreme Court Nominations Commission are lawyers, including its chairman, and they are elected to the posts by a vote of state-resident members of the Kansas bar. The other four members are lay persons.

Bopp argues in his complaint (PDF) that scheme gives the lawyers on the Commission “majority control” in filling judicial vacancies, violating the 14th Amendment right to equal protection of the laws because citizens of Kansas have no say in the election of those commission members

The suit comes on the heels of the Aug. 3 resignation of Chief Justice Robert E. Davis, who died the following day.

“This restricted election denies the rights of Kansans to vote and the right to participate equally in the selection of justices and judges in Kansas,” Bopp wrote in the complaint, which seeks an injunction and an end to the current system.

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