Election 2020

Kansas' Judges Should Be Recalled Before They Do Any Further Harm

Flanked by Justice Eric S. Rosen, left, and Chief Justice Lawton R. Nuss, right, Justice Marla J. Luckert questions an attorney for Reginald Carr as during a hearing before the Kansas Supreme Court Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 in Topeka, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas Supreme Court Justices Lawton Nuss, Marla Luckert, Carol Beier, and Dan Biles have failed to serve the people of Kansas and should be removed before they do any further harm. Not only have they consistently imposed their will in place of the law, they have also inflicted unnecessary suffering on Kansas families.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the last seven attempts by these justices to reverse the convictions of murderers and predators. If the nine robed jurists in Washington consistently overrule Kansas’s highest court, it’s not only embarrassing to the state—it’s evidence that these justices are making up the law.

Not only did these justices impose their views; they did so at the expense of the victims’ families. For example, in the case of Kansas v. Marsh, the Kansas Supreme Court tried to invalidate the law imposing the death penalty on the defendant after he broke into a house, waited for the victim and her 19-month-old child to return, slashed her throat, set the house on fire, and left the child to burn to death. In Kansas v. Ventris, the Kansas Supreme Court tried to undo a murder conviction for two defendants who robbed and murdered a man in his home to make off with $300 in cash.

Yet, the most egregious example by far is the Carr case. When the Carr brothers robbed, kidnapped, raped, and tortured seven innocent people, killing five of them, a jury of their peers found them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and sentenced them to death under Kansas law. Eleven years later, these four justices voted to overturn the Carrs’ sentences and force the state to put them on trial all over again. That vote would also force the families of the victims who were tortured to death to relive this horror, hear the evidence again, and feel the media spotlight. This alone should be enough to justify voting Nuss, Luckert, Beier, and Biles out.

Fortunately for the victims in these cases, the U.S. Supreme Court found the Kansas Supreme Court had misapplied the Constitution. But each of these cases is emblematic of a broader pattern of lawlessness that merits voting against retaining these justices.

As the late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote just weeks before his untimely death, “Kansans … do not think the death penalty is unconstitutional and indeed very much favor it, which might suggest that a retention election that goes before such people would not come out favorably for those justices who create Kansas law.”

Next Page: But it gets worse …

This week, according to the complaint filed against Justice Carol Beier by the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, Beier undermined the integrity of the Court even further: her husband hosted a Democrat political fundraiser for then-gubernatorial-candidate Paul Davis at her home in 2014. Although her husband was the purported host for the event and Beier was out of the house at the time, the Kansas Commission of Judicial Qualifications has already held that these factors don’t make a difference.

In 1990, the Commission held a judge’s spouse may not hold a meet-and-greet at their jointly owned home. Letting a gubernatorial candidate solicit political donations in a Supreme Court justice’s house isn’t just foolish; it doesn’t just look bad. It should make Kansans who might appear in court wonder if the whole system is rigged in favor of the political party allowed into Beier’s home. Regardless of whether the Commission imposes sanctions, the voters should preserve the integrity of the office by voting her out.

The most frequent objection to voting out judges relies on the idea that courts should not be subject to politics. And that is indeed true — America’s legal system rests on the separation of powers, where an independent judiciary upholds the law as a cooling check on political passions. But that principle rests on another, more foundational one: that because all human beings are created equal, just governments must rest on the consent of the governed.

When four justices like Nuss, Luckert, Beier, and Biles thwart the application of criminal law by rewriting the laws the people’s representatives passed, they undermine the sovereignty of “we, the people” and replace it with “we, the enlightened judges.” Removing them from office does not politicize the courts — the justices’ choice to impose their politics already did that. Voting them out is the only way to restore impartiality and the rule of law.

On November 8, Kansans should remember the victims the Kansas Supreme Court did not, remember the laws the Kansas Supreme Court did not follow, and remember the names of Nuss, Luckert, Beier, and Biles when they vote corruption out and the law back in.