Kansas judicial retention elections

Today’s Wichita Eagle contains an article about Kansas Supreme Court Justices and their retention elections. These elections, where voters are asked whether a judge should remain a member of the court, represent the primary way that ordinary Kansans participate in the selection of who sits on our state’s highest court and appeals court.

The Eagle article focuses on Justice Carol Beier and the campaign against her retention by Kansans For Life. The issue here is that Beier rules in ways that Kansans For Life doesn’t like. That’s a political issue, and voters can make up their minds as to whether Beier’s votes represent their interests.

Missing from the article is mention of an issue surrounding Chief Justice Lawton Nuss that doesn’t have anything to do with politics, but rather his official conduct on the bench.

Here’s how the Kansas Commission on Judicial Performance described one issue: “In 2006, Justice Nuss self-reported a potential ethical violation to the Commission on Judicial Qualifications. A subsequent investigation of this incident resulted in a finding that Justice Nuss had violated the Code of Judicial Conduct by having an ex parte conversation relating to a pending proceeding. The Commission on Judicial Qualifications subsequently admonished Justice Nuss for his conduct in the matter and ordered him to cease and desist from future similar activity.”

The admonishment resulted from an improper meeting with two legislators, according to Lawrence Journal-World reporting: “The Commission on Judicial Qualifications said Nuss violated three Canons of Judicial Conduct when he spoke with Sens. Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, and Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, about a school finance bill while school finance litigation was still pending before the court. In its commentary, the commission said Nuss’ meeting on March 1 ‘resulted in the appearance of impropriety which undermines public confidence in the judiciary …'”

The article also noted this breakthrough accomplishment of Nuss: “It is the first time in Kansas history that a state Supreme Court judge has been found in violation of the judicial ethics rules.”

There was another ethics issue involving Nuss and this case that didn’t result in admonishment or any other sanction. Before joining the Supreme Court, Nuss worked for a law firm that represented a school district that sued the state as part of the Montoy school finance lawsuit. I contended that Nuss should have recused himself from the proceedings. See The ethics case against Justice Lawton R. Nuss.

Karl Peterjohn, at that time executive director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network, wrote: “If you were being sued, and as a taxpayer you are, would you like to face Justice Lawton Nuss, who used to represent your legal challenger? Nuss was in the law firm that represents the lead plaintiff, the Salina public school district, until he joined the court in October 2002.”

These are the types of issues that Kansans need to know about as they vote on whether to retain Kansas Supreme Court justices.

9 thoughts on “Kansas judicial retention elections”

  1. This is a big miss for any members of the KS press. Of course, I haven’t heard a word about the media’s favority candidate for KS Attorney General in 2006, the disgraced and resigned Paul Morrison.

    Morrison was a Democrat….if it is still politically correct to mention party affiliation.

  2. I assume all the judges are progressives because of the stupid way they are nominated. Just vote no on all of them.

  3. Seems most of the 18th Judicial District judges figured out that most voters will vote a straight Republican party line ticket, so most of them changed their party affiliation to “R” to get votes.

    We now have lots of hardcore Liberal “Republican” in name only judges.

    We need citizens to tell what they know about the rulings of the various judges.

  4. Voting for retention of the Justices, Supreme and Appeals Court both, are probably one of the most important and least discussed decisions folks will have to make on their ballots Nov. 2nd.

    I find it difficult to ascertain information on them. I do not trust the MSM. Nor do I trust lawyer’s associations, that for the most part are subjects to the democrat party.

    Thanks for the help on this critical decision. We are finding out that these Judges are so frequently “legislating from the bench.”

    Kansas Watchdog also did a story on Brier. Apparently she wanted to delete the retention vote from the ballot. Also, something about a $25,000 PAC donation to her?

  5. Kansans for Life is actually advocating voting against retention for all the Supreme Court justices on the ballot, not just Beier, and not just because of abortion but because of reasons like those cited against Nuss. Judicial activism and corruption is a cancer on our country.

  6. Hi, based on some of the statements above it seems that the only helpful vote on November 2, is to vote to NOT retain any judges. I don’t particularly like that answer.

    Wichita KS

  7. Lawton Nuss was admonished for improper discussion of a pending case with parties to that case. This case was the critically important school finance case, Montoy and Nuss was talking about it with legislators. In a state where there was real judicial ethics, he would have been forced out of office. Nuss is still on the KS Supreme Court.

    In Kansas Nuss receives the minimum punishment and was “admonished.” This was barely reported and the eagle’s latest article ignored this salient fact. Ho-hum, Nuss is a judicial activist so we can afford to give him a pass.

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