As you can see, we are the only one in the nation like this. We have seen the fruits of this selection system in the past, such as in the Montoy decision, when the Kansas Supreme Court arrogated the power of the purse of the legislature, ordering it to spend a specific amount of money on a specific allocation. In the past week, one ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court was reversed in an 8-1 ruling by the United States Supreme Court. Another ruling by a district judge that jeopardizes every mainstream abortion restriction put in place in the past several years was allowed to stand due to a divided Kansas Court of Appeals in a 7-7 decision. These cases are detailed more below.
While we have made reforms to the Kansas Court of Appeals, which only required a change in statute, the judicial nominees for the Kansas Supreme Court are still chosen utilizing the Missouri Plan with the nominating commission. The consensus is to move our system to one like the federal model, where the governor nominates a judge and the Senate confirms. This would result in a balanced court – Governor Graves and Sebelius would still have appointed justices in alignment with their philosophies, as would Governor Brownback. The point is the court appointments would be conducted by the executive and the Senate elected by, and accountable to, the people of Kansas.
However, the changes there require a 2/3 majority of each chamber, plus an affirmative vote of the people of Kansas because it requires an amendment to the Kansas Constitution. As you know, judges all stood for election in Kansas before 1960. The Kansas Senate adopted a Constitutional Amendment for the federal model in the 2015 Session, however, the Kansas House has not yet voted on the bill. It is the House’s intention to get the votes required to do that this year. Regarding the cases in question:
US Supreme Court Ruling in Carr Brothers Case
On the evening of December 14th, Reginald and Jonathan Carr continued their crime spree after committing an armed robbery and murdering a 55-year-old woman in the week prior. The pair picked a home to rob and broke in. Their they found 5 friends Brad Heyka, Heather Muller, Aaron Sander, Jason Befort and his girlfriend, and a young woman identified as Holly G. The Karr brothers ransacked the house before sexually assaulting and attacking the victims. The brothers then took the five to a field where they were shot execution style before being run over by a truck. One woman survived who was able to report the attack. The Carr brothers were sentenced to death by a jury after being convicted in the “Wichita massacre” which occurred in 2000.
The Kansas Supreme Court reversed the death penalty determination in 2014 on the grounds that the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution doesn’t allow the pair to be sentenced at the same time, as they were in this case. This month, in a striking 8-1 reversal, the United States Supreme Court overturned that Kansas Supreme Court ruling. Read more about the Supreme Court opinion in this article