ABA prefers merit selection of judges

After seeming to waffle last week, Gov. Sam Brownback affirmed his decision not to release the names of applicants to the Kansas Court of Appeals, which had always been made public under the former system involving a statewide nominating commission. That’s troubling, to say the least. It was especially remarkable that in announcing the nondisclosure, he claimed “the American Bar Association recommends this method of selection.” Actually, since 1937 the ABA has favored merit selection of judges involving a bipartisan nominating commission of lawyers and laypeople. A 2008 ABA “how-to” on judicial selection said: “Merit selection encourages community involvement in judicial selection, limits the role of political favoritism, and ensures that judges are well-qualified to occupy positions of public trust.” That’s the system the Legislature just trashed. At least for now, the change only applies to the Court of Appeals.