- Associated Press - Sunday, December 6, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Two cases that will be heard in Kansas courts this week could put a political spotlight on the judges and justices hearing them, potentially threatening the careers of any who vote contrary to how activist groups think they should.

All 14 judges of the Kansas Court of Appeals on Wednesday will hear the state’s appeal of a lower court ruling striking down a new abortion law. The next day, the state Supreme Court will consider a case that involves the court’s own power to supervise lower courts.

A majority of the jurists will be up for retention votes next year, and some experts are predicting the elections will draw a flood of money from outside interest groups seeking to change the makeup of the state’s highest courts, The Lawrence Journal-World (https://bit.ly/1Iy0CGy ) reported.

Kansas voters got their first taste of high-power electioneering in a judicial race last year when Gov. Sam Brownback openly campaigned against the retention of two Supreme Court justices.

Both of the cases this week already have attracted national attention.

The abortion case before the appeals court is believed to represent the first time a Kansas court has said the state constitution guarantees the right to an abortion.

The judicial retention case before the Supreme Court is seen by some as a direct threat to the independence of the Kansas judiciary because lawmakers also have passed a bill saying all funding for the court system will be null and void if the new selection law is overturned.

Six of the 14 Court of Appeals judges are up for retention next year, as are five of the seven Supreme Court justices.

In last year’s Kansas elections, Supreme Court justices Eric Rosen and Lee Johnson joined in a majority opinion that vacated the death sentences of Jonathan and Reginald Carr, who were convicted of a gruesome December 2000 quadruple homicide in Wichita.

While the court upheld the convictions, it found errors in how the penalty phase of the trial was carried out and remanded the case back to the trial court for new sentencing.

The Brownback campaign ran television ads criticizing the “liberal judges who let the Carr brothers off the hook.”

Both justices survived, but by a much closer margin than usual.

Kansans for Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, has announced it will be watching the Court of Appeals case and will campaign against judges it deems to have voted the wrong way.

The group pushed hard for the new law banning a procedure commonly used in second-trimester abortions.

A Shawnee County judge issued an injunction in July blocking the state from enforcing that law, saying it placed too much of a burden on women seeking an abortion.


Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, https://www.ljworld.com



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