Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt on Monday asked the Kansas Supreme Court to settle a dispute over the governor's authority to fill an appeals court vacancy by ordering the Legislature to clarify state law.
Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, says Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly lost the right to appoint a judge when her initial pick withdrew from consideration. Now, Wagle argues, the decision should be made by the chief justice.
Schmidt said the Legislature failed to contemplate this scenario when it adopted the statute dealing with judicial appointments. Only lawmakers, Schmidt said, can fix the defect.
"This court should exercise restraint, decline to speculate how the Legislature might have wished the statute to address this circumstance, and instead leave to the Legislature the task of repairing the statute as it may see fit," Schmidt said.
Schmidt asked the high court for a swift ruling.
Last week, Kelly announced three finalists for the vacancy. Her previous nominee, Labette County District Court Judge Jeffry Jack, withdrew in March following disclosure of his profane, insulting and politically based Tweets.
State law provides a 60-day window to fill appointments. Kelly contends the clock reset when Jack stepped aside.
"We just need to get that language clarified," Kelly said, "but in the meantime, it's important that we go ahead with the process."