The Kansas Meadowlark

Dec 16, 2007
[Updated Dec 28, 2007]


Updated Political Profile of Members of the
Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission:
Still 6 Democrats, 2 Republicans, 1 Republican for Moore

This article briefly discusses a recent paper by KU Law Professor Stephen J. Ware about the imbalance in power in the selection of Kansas Supreme Court judges, and then shows how politically skewed the current members of the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission are.  


The debate over the selection of judges in Kansas is not new:

Selection of justice up in air, Topeka Capital-Journal, Oct 22, 2005.
... Some lawmakers criticized the current selection system, in which a nine-member Supreme Court Nominating Commission picks three finalists for the high court in private deliberations. The governor makes the final nod.

Five members of the nominating commission are elected by the state's lawyers, whom conservatives say lean left. The other four are picked by the governor, who currently is a Democrat.

"It's just politicking at a different level and behind closed doors," said Sen. Phillip Journey, R-Haysville. ...

Several weeks ago commentary about a paper by Stephen J. Ware, a professor at the University of Kansas School of Law appeared in the Wichita Eagle.  Professor Ware made the case that Kansas attorneys have too much power in selection of judges, especially when compared to other states:

Bar has too much power in picking state's justices, Wichita Eagle, Nov 29, 2007.

Kansas is the only state that gives its bar  - the state's lawyers - majority control over the selection of state Supreme Court justices. As a result, lawyers may have more control over the judiciary in Kansas than in any other state. Not only do Kansas lawyers have an extreme amount of power over judicial selection, they exercise this power in secret.

Other papers covering this topic, included:

Ware's paper is online on the web site  of The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies and Table 1 from that paper (below) shows how unique the selection of Supreme Court judges is in Kansas compared to other states:

If you're interested in knowing more about Professor Ware's findings, you can attend a public meeting on Jan 9 in Overland Park or Jan 15 in Topeka to hear him talk about this subject.


Ware's Wichita Eagle commentary from Nov 29, prompted a reply by Linda S. Parks, president of the Kansas Bar Association.  On Dec 7, 2007 Linda Parks opined in the Wichita Eagle that we should keep selecting justices on merit, not politics.  

The current system is fair and inclusive and eliminates the raw politics that might otherwise taint the process. No reform is needed, because the system works well.

Linda S. Parks, a Wichita attorney, is president of the Kansas Bar Association.

Parks apparently wanted to spread her views about the judicial selection process and was quoted in the Dec 4, 2007 Chanute Tribune:

Selecting the court, Chanute Tribune, Dec 4, 2007

Stephen J. Ware argued that citizens would be better served if the state required high court justices to be confirmed by the state Senate before taking the bench.  ...

However Linda S. Parks, a Wichita attorney and president of the Kansas Bar Association, said Ware’s proposal would make the selection process even more political.

“He wants the politicians to control it instead of the people and I think that’s absolutely the kind of system that Kansans don’t want.”

Parks' response to Ware's paper is a metaphor for what is happening in Kansas with the press hiding just how political the current selection system is.  

Linda Parks didn't say anything in her Wichita Eagle commentary that she contributed $4000 to Kathleen Sebelius for Governor from 2001-2006, nor did Linda Parks say anything about the $2000 she gave to Paul Morrison for Attorney General in 2005-2006.  Linda Parks didn't say anything about her "generous financial contributions" and those of her husband, Randy Brown, to the Sedgwick County Democratic Party.  Linda Parks didn't say anything about being an attorney at Hite Fanning & Honeyman LLP in Wichita, nor anything about one of the principals in that law firm, Richard C. Hite, being the chair of the Supreme Court Nominating Commission!   The Nov 2007 contribution report to the Federal Election Commission from the Kansas Democratic Party shows a recent contribution via "ACT Blue", the online clearinghouse for Democratic action:

Linda Parks
100 N. Broadway; Suite 950
Wichita, Kansas 67202

Hite; Fanning & Honeyman LLP 

10/01/2007

325.00

Attorney 

 

325.00

Earmarked through ACT Blue

   

Linda Parks didn't say anything about her husband, Randy Brown, a Democratic candidate for the Kansas Senate in 2004 in District 31, giving $500 to Tiller's ProKanDo PAC in 2005, and that Brown was supported by Tiller's Kansans for Moderate Government PAC in 2004.  Linda Parks didn't say anything that two members of the current Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission, namely Richard Hite and Lee Woodard, had contributed to her husband's failed State Senate run in 2004.  No conflict of interest here by the president of the Kansas Bar Association? 

Why must the Kansas press keep Kansans in the dark about just how political the process is to select our judges?  Why is the Kansas press just like Linda Parks in saying one thing, but leaving out many political details that are relevant in keeping the system fair?


A Meadowlark article from July 3, 2006 gave details about the political imbalance in the Supreme Court nominating commission then:

Political Profile of Members of the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission:
6 Democrats, 2 Republicans, 1 Republican for Moore

With several changes to the Commission since then, the remainder of this article is an update on that story. 

 Most members of the Commission are politically active, some active in their county political party, and in donating to political candidates.  Why isn't that information relevant in deciding if their decision-making process in "non-partisan"? 

The names of the Commission are listed in  Executive Offices, Departments, Boards and Commissions (document p. 187), from the Kansas Secretary of State.  Table 2 (below) gives details of the political affiliations, political contributions, and other relevant information about the members of this Commission:


Table 2.
Political Profile of Members of the
Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission

Do we want political activists picking the Supreme Court Justices in Kansas?

Chair, Elected Statewide by Attorneys
Richard C Hite, Republican, 79, Wichita

Member since 2001.  Term expires June 30, 2009
Also Commissioner on Advisory Committee on Uniform State Laws

Contributor to: 

  • D. Randy Brown [D] $200 '04 [Brown's wife, Linda Parks, works at Richard Hite's law firm; also see Woodard below.]

  • Praeger [R] (from law firm) $1000 '03

  • Graves [R] $100 '94, $100 '96

  • Wint Winter, Jr [R] $350 '94

Congressional
District
Elected by Attorneys Appointed by the Governor
1 Kerry E. McQueen, Republican, 67, Liberal

Also on State Board of Examiners of Court Reporters.
Fort Hays State University Foundation, Chair.

Contributor to:

  • Sally Cauble [R], $350, '05-'06
  • Carl Holmes [R], $375, '03, '96
  • Steve Irsik [D], $200, '00
  • Bill Graves [R], $100, '97-'98
  • Carla Stovall [R], $100, '97
Janet A. Juhnke, Democrat, 65, Salina

Contributor to:

  • Sebelius [D], $150, '02, '06
  • Saline County Democratic Party, $100, '06

Appointed by Sebelius in 2006 for four year term.

Also see:
Sebelius Replaces Appointee to Supreme Court Nominating Commission After 42 Days, Kansas Meadowlark, Aug 13, 2006, Salina Journal Blog

2 Patricia E. Riley, Democrat, 58, Topeka

Contributor to:

  • Boyda [D]  $1500, '04, '06, '07
  • Morrison [D] $1100, '06; husband, Wesley Weathers, gave Morrison $500, '06
  • Sebelius [D] $5000 '00-'05; husband Wesley Weathers, gave Sebelius $5750, '94-'06
  • Laura Kelly [D], $200, '03-'04
  • Wagnon [D] $100, '93 (with husband Wesley)
  • Slattery [D] $500, '93 (with husband Wesley)
  • Dennis Moore [D] $1750, '98, '99, '03
  • DNC, $500, '03-'04

Other contributions by husband, Wes Weathers:

  • Kansas Democratic State Committee, $750, '07, '05
  • Nancy Boyda, $500, '06
  • John Kerry [D], $2000, '04
  • Dennis Moore [D], $2750, '98-'04
  • Jill Docking [D], $500, '96

Term expires 

Dale E. Cushinberry, Democrat, 60, Topeka

No known political contributions

In Topeka, as many as 123 Hispanic students were absent from Highland Park High School on Monday ...Principal Dale Cushinberry ... attended the protest to support students carrying Mexican flags April 11, 2006

Appointed by Sebelius in 2003.
Term expires June 30, 2007.

3 Thomas J. Bath, Jr., 46, Overland Park
Republican for Moore '02 & '04 

Contributor to:  

  • Paul Morrison [D], $2000, '06; wife, Michelle, gave $2500 to Morrison in '05-'06
  • David Adkins [R], $450, '00-'02
  • Phill Kline [R], $400, '02;
    wife, Michelle, gave $500 to Kline in '02
  • Dennis Moore [D], $1150, '98, '03, '04; wife, Michelle, gave Moore $1500, '97, '01, '02

Wife, Michelle, gave $500 to Sebelius in '06 and $500 to Shallenburger in '02. 

Member since 2000.
Term expires June 30, 2008.

Bath, a former assistant district attorney in Johnson County, was honored as Kansas prosecutor of the year in 1991, KC Star, Sept 6, 1994.

Vivien B. Jennings, Democrat, 62, Fairway

Contributor to:  

  • Dennis Moore [D], $500, '03-'04

Rainy Day Books owner, Vivien Jennings, sponsored events in the Kansas City area for Bill Clinton (June 22, 2004), Hillary Clinton (April 12, 2003), Al & Tipper Gore (Nov 24, 2002), Caroline Kennedy (Sept 26, 2005), Jane Fonda (Apr 20, 2005), Michael Moore (Oct 7, 2004), John McCain (Dec 16, 2005).

Appointed by Sebelius in 2004.
Term expires June 30, 2008.

4 Lee H. Woodard, Democrat, 72, Wichita

Contributor to:  

  • Morrison [D], $500, '06
  • D. Randy Brown [D], $50, '04 [See Hite above]
  • Firestone [D], $50, '04
  • Carlos Nolla [D], $450, '02
  • Nat'l Republican Congressional Committee, $300, '02

Law firm Woodard, Hernandez, Roth & Day gave to:

  • Sedgwick County Democratic Party, $500, '05-'06
  • Sebelius [D], $4750, '98-'06
  • Graves [R], $2100, '95-'98

Member since 2001.
Term expires June 30, 2009.

"It's the 2005 Weepers," Wichita Eagle, Dec. 31, 2005:  To the Wichita Bar Association and attorney Lee H. Woodard, who, despite the pleas from community groups and generous monetary offers, bulldozed the historic Fidelity Title building downtown to make way for a handful of parking spaces.

Dr. David N. Farnsworth, Democrat, 78,Wichita

Contributor to

  • Sebelius [D], $250 '06
  • Sedgwick County Democratic Party, $275, '05
  • ProKanDo PAC, $100, '04 (3/16/2004)
  • Knight [R], $300, '02, '04
  • Stockwell [D], $150, '02
  • Graves [R], $100, '98

Appointed by Sebelius in 2005
Term expires June 30, 2009.

"Retired Dean Chosen to Pick Justices", Wichita Eagle, July 26, 2005

 


There is a limit on the number of members of any one political party on the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.  Why is there no similar restriction on the members of the Supreme Court Nominating Commission?   Why is a single, minority, political party allowed to run such a Commission?  Democrats preach diversity, but squelch any conservative voices.  

Governor Kathleen Sebelius has appointed all politically-active Democrats to the Supreme Court Nominating Commission.  Nearly all members of this Commission lean left with Sebelius' appointees leaning left, and the Bar's elected members almost always leaning left. 

Why does the Kansas press pretend  the current judicial process is not political when it's obviously very political?   Instead of hiding the politics, why not allow the election of judges, or even the members of the judicial selection committee?  Or, why not use a system like the U.S. Senate and require Kansas judicial selections to be confirmed by the Kansas Senate?


While not a Supreme Court nomination, on Thursday Gov. Sebelius chose Patrick Thompson from Salina to fill a 28th Judicial District Judge position.  Why are Sebelius' choices for judges more often than not also her political contributors?  Did Patrick Thompson's political contributions to Kathleen Sebelius and Paul Morrison have anything to do with why he was selected?

Recipient

Contributor

Date

Dollars

Contest

MORRISON, PAUL

THOMPSON, PATRICK

11/6/2006

$100.00

AG

SEBELIUS, KATHLEEN

THOMPSON, PATRICK

2/10/2006

$50.00

Gov

SEBELIUS, KATHLEEN

THOMPSON, PATRICK

11/2/2005

$100.00

Gov

SEBELIUS, KATHLEEN

THOMPSON, PATRICK

7/11/2002

$50.00

Gov

Can Kansans trust Sebelius to make the best appointment for a position when so many appointments are to her contributors?


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