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Former Kansas Governors Campaign to Retain Supreme Court Justices

The four governors during the event in Topeka. From left to right are moderator Reggie Robinson, Republican Bill Graves, Democrat Kathleen Sebelius, Republican Mike Hayden and Democrat John Carlin. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

Four former Kansas governors are arguing that state Supreme Court justices should keep their jobs. Five of the justices face retention elections this fall.

The two Republican and two Democratic governors say that, overall, the high court has a very good record and a handful of their rulings are being used to try to unseat them. Former Republican Kansas Governor Bill Graves says the state's judicial selection system in Kansas works well.

“Someone needs to speak for them, and I think collectively the four of us felt it was our responsibility to stand up and say to Kansans ‘these are five individuals who deserve to be retained,’” says Graves.

Former Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius says the court is an important part of the checks and balances in state government. She says keeping the justices in their jobs helps insulate the court from outside political pressure.

“That’s the way the system was founded. It has been in place for 60 years, it has worked very well and we want to make sure it continues,” says Sebelius.
Family members and friends of those murdered by the Carr brothers in Wichita in December of 2000 are campaigning to unseat four of the justices. Former Republican Governor Mike Hayden says his heart goes out to those people, but he says the justices must be judged on their entire volume of work. He says more than 99 percent of the time the court's rulings have been upheld.

"That’s quite a record. We can’t be distracted by one or two cases, because we all might disagree or be disappointed in some of those decisions,” says Hayden.

Amy Scott James was dating one of the victims of the Carr brothers, Brad Heyka, when the murders took place. She says four of the justices should be voted out. James says they did not follow the state’s death penalty laws when they made rulings that were later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"I would agree with the governors when they say they want to keep the courts fair and impartial. That’s actually our goal as well. The problem we have right now is the court is not fair and impartial,” says James.

KPR's Stephen Koranda was at Tuesday's meeting and filed this report. 


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