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Kelly to change the way appeals court judges are picked

November 29, 2018

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly plans to return to a merit-based system of selecting appellate court judges, rather than use a different system implemented by former Gov. Sam Brownback.

Kelly will need to appoint a new Kansas Court of Appeals judge soon after she takes office to fill a seat that will become vacant when Judge Patrick McAnany retires in January.

The incoming governor said she will have a nonpartisan nominating committee filter applications for the court and forward three applicants to her. That is similar to the process used before Brownback changed it to allow the governor to make appointments directly, subject to Senate confirmation, The Lawrence Journal-World reported .

“In an effort to increase transparency, we will use a merit-based selection process similar to that used by the Kansas Supreme Court,” Kelly said in a statement Wednesday. “This is not required, but I believe the people of Kansas deserve to observe this process and know that we are choosing a highly-qualified person to serve in this important judicial position. I am committed to being open and transparent.”

McAnany will retire Jan. 14, 2019, the same day that Kelly and other statewide elected officers take office.

The selection process will begin before Kelly takes office, with her transition office accepting applications until noon on Dec. 28. The names of all applicants will be made public Dec. 31.

Kelly plans to pick a committee of attorneys and others to review the applicants and conduct public interviews sometime after Kelly’s inauguration. It will then forward the names of three candidates to the governor’s office. Kelly will announce her selection no later than March 15, which is 60 days after McAnany’s retirement takes effect.

The Kansas Senate must confirm her choice.

Brownback and other conservative lawmakers did away with the merit-based process for the Court of Appeals in 2013. Supporters of Brownback’s system were critical of many appellate court rulings and said the nominating commission was dominated by lawyers. An effort to make a similar change for selecting Kansas Supreme Court justices was unsuccessful because that requires a constitutional amendment.

Supporters of the merit-based selection process contend it helps keep the judicial branch of government independent by ensuring that judges were not appointed based on political loyalties.

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com

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