Kansas lawmakers are considering changing the way state Supreme Court justices are selected, but lawyers say the move would politicize the court.
The House Judicial Committee conducted a hearing Wednesday on two measures that would amend the Kansas Constitution. One change would select Supreme Court justices in partisan elections, while the other would allow the governor to appoint them.
Representatives of three lawyers' associations told panel that either change would weaken the independence of the judiciary.
A former top aide to Gov. Sam Brownback is among three finalists for a vacant seat on the Kansas Supreme Court.
A special nominating commission has chosen Court of Appeals Judges Caleb Stegall and Karen Arnold-Burger and state District Judge Merlin Wheeler from 13 applicants for the high court. Brownback has 60 days to appoint one of them to the court.
Stegall was Brownback's chief counsel until the governor appointed him to the state Court of Appeals in January of this year. Arnold-Burger has served on that court since 2011.
Former Kansas Supreme Court Justice Nancy Moritz has taken the oath of office to join the federal appeals court that handles cases from six western and Plains states. The Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals says Moritz's temporary chambers will be in Lawrence.
President Barack Obama nominated Moritz in 2013 and she was confirmed in May. Her departure gives Gov. Sam Brownback his first appointment to the state's highest court.