Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Religious Right takes aim at Kansas judges

By Diane Silver

A new Kansas political action committee is pressing judges to take stands on abortion, school funding and Christianity.

The Associated Press reports that The Kansas Judicial Review of Johnson County will use the results of questionnaires to recommend which judges it wants retained and which ones it wants booted from office.

While questionnaires are commonly used with candidates for political offices, pressing judges for their political opinions is simply wrong. It is based on a misunderstanding of a judge's role. The AP notes:
Ron Keefover, spokesman for the Kansas court system, said judges take an oath to follow the law, so their personal opinions on certain issues are essentially irrelevant. And judges who do state opinions might later have to recuse themselves from cases if a related matter comes before them, he said.
AP reports:
The questionnaire sent to eight judges include such questions as whether the abortion case Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and "Do you agree with rulings that have restricted communities from commemorating their Christian heritage?"
AP reports that The Kansas Judicial Review of Johnson County was formed in the spring and is affiliated with Kansas Judicial Watch.
Both groups want all Kansas judges to be elected. Currently, judges are elected in many counties, but in 52 counties, they are appointed by the governor and then face retention votes.
One of the hardest things about being a voter is being able to find enough accurate information about candidates. That's even harder to do with such low-profile offices as judgeships.

I can understand people's wish for information, but pressing to elect judges on the basis of political litmus tests perverts our system of justice and perverts the constitutional basis of our society.

Such judicial litmus tests also put everyone in danger. Personally, if I am ever standing before a judge, I would much prefer that she follow the law instead of her own political leanings.

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