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UPDATE: Kansas Senate Approves Judicial Impeachment Bill

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Stephen Koranda, File Photo
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Kansas Public Radio

Updated at 1:27 p.m:

The Kansas Senate has narrowly passed a bill that outlines a dozen of reasons state Supreme Court justices can be impeached. It includes terms like “discourteous conduct” and trying to usurp the power of the legislative or executive branches. Republican Senator Mitch Holmes says the bill clarifies the current impeachment powers in the Kansas Constitution.

“When officials are allowed to have absolute power, we run a real risk to our democratic process. We live in an era when people believe that independence of the courts and absolute power are synonymous,” Holmes says.

The bill was amended to include similar impeachment grounds for the governor and other statewide office-holders. Democratic Senator Anthony Hensley calls that a “smoke screen” to hide the real goal of the bill, intimidating the Supreme Court.

“The purpose of 439 is to place inappropriate pressure on the judicial branch to make their decisions according to legislative dictates,” Hensley says.

Hensley calls the new grounds for impeachment vague and political. The 21-19 vote sends the legislation to the Kansas House for consideration.

Original Story:

The Kansas Senate has advanced a bill that spells out a dozen reasons state Supreme Court justices can be impeached. The list of offenses includes attempting to usurp the power of another branch of government. Supporters of the bill say this simply clarifies the impeachment process. Republican Senator Mitch Holmes says impeachment powers have fallen by the wayside.

“We all know the phrase power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. That’s what this is about,” Holmes says.

Critics of the bill say it expands the grounds for impeaching a Kansas Supreme Court justice to include vague offenses like “discourteous conduct.” Democratic Senator Anthony Hensley says some court rulings could be grounds for impeachment under this bill.

“I don’t think this will work, but I believe the intent behind this bill is to intimidate the Kansas Supreme Court,” Hensley says.

The bill was amended in committee to include similar impeachable offenses for other statewide officers like the governor. If the legislation gets final approval from the Senate it will be considered by the Kansas House.

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and High Plains Radio covering health, education and politics.