A Kansas Supreme Court justice’s fundraising arm is pursuing donations by arguing an “unprecedented politicized effort” is underway to deny justices retention over school finance rulings.
In a fundraising letter, Justice Carol A. Beier 2016 Inc. insists that the state’s high court has been fair and impartial in directing Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature to fund schools as required under the state’s constitution, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
“The rulings, however, have not been well received by these elected officials during this season where Kansas government is confronted with a self-created financial shortfall,” read the letter, adding that Beier is guided by her judicial ethical constraints and personal convictions.
Beier told the newspaper that she didn’t write the letter, and that she has recused herself from hearing the current school finance case.
Early next month, the high court is to review the Legislature’s response to its February ruling that school funding is inequitable between districts.
Four of the five justices up for retention in the November election have corporations registered with the Kansas Secretary of State linked to their bids to retain their seats.
Carol Williams, the Kansas Ethics Commission’s chief, said the corporations aren’t required to disclose donors under Kansas law. Beier has asked to not be told who has donated, her group’s fundraising letter says.
“In my experience, this is an extremely good supreme court,” Mikel Stout, who describes himself as the Beier group’s treasurer and who signed the fundraising letter, told the newspaper.
“And to start attacking it on what I think are inappropriate grounds is offensive to me. I don’t get involved in this sort of thing very often, but this isn’t right.”
After the February school finance ruling, House Speaker Ray Merrick said the court “has once again demonstrated no misgivings on interjecting itself in legislative proceedings and holding Kansas taxpayers and Kansas school children hostage.”
“Kansans deserve better, and that is the consideration we will make going forward,” Merrick said.
Sen. Jeff King, an Independence Republican who heads the senate’s Judiciary Committee, said justices should avoid the appearance of impropriety.
“I think it’s better that a fundraiser treasurer said it than the justice herself,” he said. “But when we’re dealing with judicial elections, the appearance of impartiality matters.”