On this year’s ballot, five of the seven justices on the Kansas Supreme Court are up for retention.
But in what is usually a low-key race, two groups have campaigned against four of the five justices on the ballot. That view is also shared by the Kansas Republican Party.
The five justices up for retention:
▪ Chief Justice Lawton Nuss
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▪ Justice Marla J. Luckert
▪ Justice Carol A. Beier
▪ Justice Dan Biles
▪ Justice Caleb Stegall
Another group, including a bipartisan coalition of former governors like Kathleen Sebelius and Bill Graves, made a brief press tour in September to advocate for retaining all five of the judges.
The group sponsoring the event, Kansans for Fair Courts, also held an event with two former Kansas attorneys general earlier this month in hope of keeping the justices in place.
The former Kansas leaders defended the judges’ records, saying the men and women on the ballot are focusing on the constitution and ensuring the rights of all Kansans.
But two other groups, Better Judges for Kansas and Kansans for Justice, have campaigned to oust all but justice Stegall, the only justice appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback.
Critics of the judges point to the court’s controversial decision to a vacate death sentences in the case of Jonathan and Reginald Carr. Later on, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that decision.
The Carr brothers were convicted for a grisly series of crimes in late 2000 that included kidnap, murder and rape.
Advocates for the justices have defended how they handled the case, including Sebelius, who said the “Carr brothers will never see the light of day.”
But the justices have also attracted attention for how they have handled the Gannon v. Kansas school finance case. The justices’ work in that case resulted in the June special session on education that helped equalize funding between poorer and richer school districts.
The retention campaigns have been clandestine about where money for the race is coming from. The retention races aren’t covered by the state’s campaign finance laws.