Gov. Laura Kelly withdrew her nominee for the state Court of Appeals Tuesday morning after tweets surfaced that showed Judge Jeffry L. Jack voicing his disdain for conservative leaders and Republican lawmakers in sometimes coarse, profane language.
“I’m surprised and disappointed that a sitting judge would engage in this type of rhetoric,” Kelly, a Democrat, said in a statement. “It’s unacceptable for a sitting judge, who must be seen as unbiased and impartial, to post personal political views on social media.”
Jack was a Republican member of the Kansas House of Representatives prior to being appointed to the 11th District Court in 2005 by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Last week, Kelly announced his nomination forthe vacancy left by retired Judge Patrick McAnany.
But on Monday, Jack’s nomination hit a snag when Senate President Susan Wagle announced she would oppose the judge in light of controversial posts on his Twitter account.
Jack had a habit of telling lawmakers just what he thought of their policies. In a May 2017 tweet to then-Congressman Kevin Yoder, Jack criticized the Republican lawmaker for his vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act. “My child has pre-existing condition, diabetes. Couldn’t be denied affordable coverage under ACA. F--k you for your vote,” the tweet said.
He has also tweeted “f--k you,” to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and conservative political commentator Dinesh D’Souza.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Jack defended his opinions on Twitter, but said he was unaware that they were viewable to the public.
“I am sorry to Governor Kelly that my ignorance of the mechanisms of Twitter caused her any embarassment,” the statement read. “I am not sorry for believing that violence is bad; that discrimination is bad; that misogyny is bad;or that hypocrisy is bad.”
Jack further criticized Wagle for opposing his nomination before he was able to defend himself in a hearing.
“She based her decision on some tweets I made on a personal account over a period of a few months two years ago,” the statement read.
Kelly’s office said Monday that, despite a vetting process and background check by a nominating committee and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the governor was not aware of the Twitter account.
“It’s clear that despite a thorough review and investigation, this was missed,” Kelly said in a statement.
Jack apparently withdrew his name from consideration on Monday at Kelly’s request. In a letter to the governor, the judge wrote, “at your request, please convey to the Senate that I hearby withdraw from consideration for the Court of Appeals vacancy.”
Kelly had 60 days from the time of Judge McAnany’s vacancy, or until March 15, to nominate a replacement. Despite passing the deadline to nominate a candidate, Kelly said she intends to nominate another judge to the court in the next 60 days.
“I ask that the nominating committee thoroughly review all applicants again – including social media activity – and send me additional names for consideration,” Kelly said. “Once this is done and background checks are complete, I will then submit a new nominee to the Kansas Senate for review and confirmation, prior to the end of the legislative session.”
The Senate typically has 60 days to vote on Kelly’s candidate from the time of nomination. It remains unclear whether or not a new nominee will be allowed a Senate vote, given that a second nomination would surpass Kelly’s deadline to fill the court vacancy.
But Senate President Susan Wagle argues that Kelly has lost her chance to fill the vacancy.
“Since the Senate received notification of Jeffry Jack’s nomination on March 15th, the 60th day, I believe it is now the obligation of the Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court to nominate a new replacement,” Wagle said in a statement Tuesday morning. “I am disappointed that the governor did not thoroughly vet her nominee and, in my view, has now lost the privilege to replace Judge Patrick McAnany.”