For the eight years I was Governor of Kansas (1979-1987), I appointed judges from a panel submitted to me as a result of by-laws and the constitution—our merit selection system. It was designed to support a quality, independent, third, and equal branch of government. The system, in my opinion, has worked well, and the results are generally accepted as fair and reasonable. I said early in my tenure that appointing judges would be one of my most important responsibilities. Knowing the choices were qualified made my task much easier.
To add evidence to the point that the system has worked, I would share my experience with pardon requests from inmates incarcerated in our State Penal System. Thousands of requests would come to my Pardon Attorney, who would do the initial screening before bringing the case to me. The bottom line is: I issued not one pardon. To the best of my memory, there never was a single public push for any request.
I contrast that with former Governor Huckabee of Arkansas, who issued over eight thousand pardons in his eleven years of service. Given the limited outrage, individual ones aside, one has to assume that citizens of that state have accepted the role for the Governor to be the court of last resort. The Arkansas Judicial system is built on electing judges in a very political environment. This leaves judicial independence and focus on justice as asides rather than fundamental values. That is their system, and it is their right to have it. Our system is not broken, so why would we want to fix it?
Also in this Blog Series on Judicial Selection in Kansas: Money and Judges: Not a Good Mix and Let's Not Let History Repeat Itself