Friday, October 10, 2008

Merit Systems for Judges

While some states have elected judges and some have merit based selection, Kansas uniquely allows both: local areas decide for themselves how judges are selected. That decision is now returning to the ballot in Johnson County. I was going to gather my sentiments on the issue and put them into a post when I received the following forwarded email, which covers my thoughts fairly well:

On November 4, voters in Johnson County will be asked in Question No. 1 whether to discard the merit system of choosing judges (through a citizen nominating commission, appointment by the Governor, and retention elections every four years for every judge) and to change to a system that will select our 23 judges through partisan political elections. Judges will have to run as Republicans or Democrats every 4 years, answer to wealthy contributors, political party bosses, and outside special interests.

I can give you a hundred reasons why a "NO" vote is a good idea. I also want to let you know that as a friend and a lawyer who knows something about the legal system in Johnson County that I hope you will vote “NO” on Question No. 1 and will also tell others to do the same.

If you want to learn more about this issue, please visit

I believe this may be the most important issue to be decided in Johnson County in years. Turning our judges into politicians is simply a bad idea for citizens and a bad idea for businesses and economic development. We don’t need 12 more campaigns every two years, with judges being forced to raise tens of thousands of dollars, make campaign promises, and then worry about re-election instead of worrying about being fair and impartial. That's probably why the Friends of Police of Johnson County, the League of Women Voters, the Chambers of Commerce in Leawood, Lenexa, Olathe, Overland Park, Northeast Johnson County, Shawnee, and the Greater Kansas City Chamber, the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, and the Johnson County Bar Association (by a 98% vote) have all endorsed a "NO" vote on November 4.

Let me know if you have any questions. I know that fair and impartial judges are the key to a fair and impartial justice system. The current merit system has been in place since Johnson County’s voters overwhelmingly adopted it in 1974. There is no reason to change!

Thank you for your consideration and, I hope, support.

Amy E. Hackler