Letter to the editor: If Folsom isn’t qualified, who is?

Staff Writer
Topeka Capital-Journal

We, as former KU Law classmates of Carl Folsom, write in response to the Kansas Senate’s rejection on June 3, 2020, of Folsom as a Court of Appeals nominee. We write this letter because Folsom represents the very best among us, as lawyers and as people.

We are concerned by some of the comments made about Folsom by senators.

Sen. Mike Thompson, R-Shawnee, proclaimed that the court of appeals judgeship is “not a place for on-the-job training. This is a situation where, if you make a bad decision, it affects someone’s life.” We agree. The integrity and professionalism of our judiciary is serious, life-and-death business. That is exactly why the rejection of Folsom’s nomination is so concerning.

Folsom is a 15-year attorney with extensive experience, at both trial and appellate levels. He embodies the experience of a candidate well-qualified and well-suited to be a Kansas Court of Appeals judge. Any negative critique of Folsom’s decade-and-a-half of legal experience is either ill-informed or disingenuous.

In short, if Carl Folsom is not qualified, we honestly do not know who is.

What we find most deeply troubling, however, are the comments of Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, pointing to Folsom’s having once represented an individual accused of possessing child pornography. Because a state senator must know that public defenders cannot choose their clients, these comments can only be taken as an effort to malign Folsom’s character and the practice of his profession. As officers of the court, and human beings, we must call this sort of rhetoric out for what it is – shameful and not befitting the Senate chamber in which it was uttered.

There are no shortcuts to reach the level Folsom has. Some news articles revealed that he grew up in homes without running water and was lifted out of poverty by a single mother who worked as a nurse. Few may have known this about Folsom, but it makes immediate sense to all those who have met him – he carries himself with a modesty and sense of purpose that can only come from a deep and genuine place. No training or education any lawyer receives can deliver those traits.

Now more than ever, we need judges who, like Folsom, have consistently demonstrated the personal and professional courage to follow the Constitution and protect the rights of individuals, even — or especially when — it is not easy or popular.

We sincerely hope Folsom receives another chance at either a state or federal judgeship — and soon. Because we look forward to the day when we, and other Kansans, will know Folsom as “Your Honor.”

Ben Fields, KU 2005; Chris Dove, KU 2003

* This is an abridged version of a letter signed by 35 attorneys and sent to the Kansas Senate on Friday, June 12.