Aug 05, 2022

Justice retention is next abortion fight in Kansas

Posted Aug 05, 2022 3:00 PM

Correction: A previous version of this story said that all the justices up for retention except for Caleb Stegall voted in the Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt case. That is incorrect. The justices appointed by Gov. Kelly were not appointed until 2020. The Hodes case was decided in 2019. Hutch Post regrets the error.

Hutch Post

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — After the defeat of the abortion regulation amendment on Tuesday, it's important to note that there is an election for a majority of the justices that have been tasked by Kansas voters with interpreting the Kansas Constitution in this area.

The terms of six of the seven Kansas Supreme Court justices will expire on January 9, 2023. The six seats are up for retention election on November 8, 2022.

The six justices that are up for a vote include Daniel Biles, Marla Luckert, Evelyn Z. Wilson, Caleb Stegall, Keynen Wall and Melissa Standridge.

Stegall is the only justice up for retention that voted in the minority in the Hodes & Nauser v. Derek Schmidt case that established a right to bodily autonomy and therefore a right to abortion in the Kansas Constitution.

For the Kansans who created record primary turnout that voted to continue to give the decision making power to those justices, it is important to come out again to vote in November for two reasons. First, to decide if the justices that made that decision who are still serving on the court stay on and also to vote in the governor's race, because should any of the justices not be retained, it would be the next governor's job to nominate a slate of replacements.

Six years ago in 2016, the fight to retain four justices on the Kansas Supreme Court was contentious, with the Kansas Republican Party committing to an attempt to oust Carol Beier, Biles and Luckert, along with then Chief Justice Lawton Nuss.

Justices are not allowed to campaign for their own retention, so the question follows, will the same forces that assisted in get out the vote efforts for the amendment question continue to mobilize their volunteers and get them once again energized?

Wilson, Wall and Standridge have all been appointed by current Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and were appointed after Hodes. Biles and Luckert were appointed by Democrat Kathleen Sebelius. Stegall was appointed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

For those who want to keep the status quo, it now changes from a No vote for the amendment to a Yes vote for the justices. For those who want to change abortion policy, it's now about changing the cast at the Kansas Supreme Court.