All Kansas Supreme Court Justices Retained

Nov 9, 2016

All five Kansas Supreme Court justices were comfortably retained in Tuesday's election
Credit Kansas Supreme Court

After roughly a million dollars in TV and radio ads plus a blizzard of postcards, the Kansas Supreme Court didn't change one bit with Tuesday's elections.

With a majority of precincts reporting, all four of the justices who had been targeted by the Republican Party, Kansans for Life and other conservative groups comfortably won retention.

“Kansans have sent a very clear message, not just to the special interest groups that Gov. Brownback has funded but to the governor himself: hands off our court,” says Ryan Wright from Kansans for Fair Courts, the organization that raised at least $400,000 to help keep the justices on the bench. 

Retained were Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, Justice Dan Biles, Justice Carol Beier, Justice Marla Luckert and Justice Caleb Stegall.

No one targeted Stegall for ouster, the only justice on the high court appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback.

Kansans for Justice lead the fight to fire the other four, raising more than a half-million dollars to run ads saying they had improperly overturned a number of death penalty cases.

Conservatives also attacked the justices over rulings on abortion and school funding.

In a statement Chief Justice Nuss, speaking for his colleagues, said voters put aside their political beliefs and backed a nonpartisan court. "The supreme court’s ability to make decisions based on the rule of law -- and the people’s constitution -- has been preserved," Nuss said.

Two years ago Kansans for Life, an anti-abortion group, unsuccessfully tried to oust two other Supreme Court justices begging the question, are expensive and bitter judicial retention elections a new element in Kansas political campaigns?

“I don’t know if it will be the last one waged but rest assured we’ll be here and we’re prepared to stand up for fair and impartial courts no matter who’s on the ballot,” Wright says.

Several Court of Appeals judges were also targeted by conservatives. All of them were also retained.

"We are disappointed that Kansas voters left bad justices in place in Topeka," Kansans for Justice said in a statement.

Sam Zeff  is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend and covers education for KCUR, which is a partner in a statewide collaboration covering elections in Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff.