On Monday, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed Senate Bill 334 into law. It requires the state attorney general be given notice anytime a court or other party plans to challenge the validity or constitutionality of any state statute. The new law will ensure the state’s top law officer has the chance to give his or her input regarding any challenge.
Given the collective mentality of this state’s current Legislature, Attorney General Derek Schmidt simply should plan to be on-call 24/7. Bills related to religious freedom as long as you’re Christian, shortchanging public schools and universities, transgendered persons’ lavatory privileges, access to safe abortions, sweeping funds previously allocated for other purposes, and attacks on the judicial branch are just a few of many areas in which Kansas should expect legal challenges.
Should the attorney general need more specificity, we shall oblige. Schmidt needs to begin planning a defense of Senate Bill 439. This two-page piece of legislative retaliation expands the spectrum of reasons a Kansas Supreme Court justice might be impeached. An amendment added in the four constitutional officers of the executive branch so it wouldn’t appear the high court was the lone target. As the attorney general is one of those officers, Schmidt likely is watching this bill closely.
SB 439 purports to clarify what sorts of high crimes and misdemeanors for which a justice could be impeached. The Kansas House, which has the sole power to impeach, will be looking for such offenses as:
• “attempting to subvert fundamental laws and introduce arbitrary power;” and
• “attempting to usurp the power of the legislative or executive branch of government.”
In other words, the Kansas Supreme Court had better find favor with all the craziness passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor — or else.
This bill is the codification of wildly unsubstantiated conspiracy theories dearly held by individuals who claim to be protecting the Constitution but in reality have no idea what the document contains.
As reported in the Topeka Capital-Journal: “The power of the Kansas Legislature is the ultimate check against officials of the executive and judiciary branches of state government from attempting to usurp the power of the people of Kansas and is a fundamental component of the constitutional system,” said Sen. Greg Smith, R-Overland Park.
The Kansas Constitution already gives the House the power to impeach. What this potential law does is give the House powerful and arbitrary discretion upon which to start such proceedings.
This piece of legislation, like so many others concocted by the governor and ultra-conservative allies in the Statehouse, will be found unconstitutional. It isn’t fair, isn’t based on sound legal reasoning, and attempts to pervert what the Kansas Constitution states. And, of course, it passed the Senate 21-19 with Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, joining the majority.
There simply is no way SB 439 will pass constitutional muster. Attorney General Schmidt, prepare your input.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry