U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts has begun lobbying members of the Kansas Legislature in the hotly contested debate over how the state should pick its Supreme Court judges.
Roberts telephoned lawmakers Thursday — making five or six calls — promoting a bill to let the governor appoint judges to the Kansas Supreme Court with the consent of the state Senate. The measure is a priority of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.
Under current law, a special panel made up of lawyers and laypeople screens applicants and recommends three candidates to the governor to choose from. Critics say that system is not democratic, lacks transparency and produces a judiciary that tilts left.
“Sen. Roberts thinks Kansas needs a more democratic process for selecting justices,” the senator’s spokesman said in a statement.
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Appointments to the Kansas Supreme Court have been one of the few jewels that have eluded Brownback since becoming governor in 2011. A bill giving him the appointments passed the Kansas Senate last year, but the measure is believed to be short of the two-thirds majority it needs to pass in the House.
Earlier this week, a House committee advanced two ideas for changing judicial selection. One would fill vacancies on the court through partisan, statewide elections. The other would give the governor the appointments with consent of the Senate.
Kansas Rep. Susan Concannon, a Beloit Republican, supports the current system for picking judges. She received a voicemail from Roberts asking her to support Brownback’s efforts to change that, she said, but “it didn’t change my mind.”