Judges must be seen as unbiased
In light of the information that surfaced regarding Judge Jeffry Jack’s social media presence, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly swiftly announced that she was withdrawing Jack’s name from consideration for the Kansas Court of Appeals vacancy.
Judge Jack, at the request of Gov. Kelly, submitted a letter removing his name from consideration.
“I’m surprised and disappointed that a sitting judge would engage in this type of rhetoric,’’ Gov. Kelly said. “It’s unacceptable for a sitting judge, who must be seen as unbiased and impartial, to post personal political views on social media.’’
Gov. Kelly is absolutely right, and if you’re also a judge out there and you think it’s your constitutional right to continue to share your personal takes on everything in the world – as a sitting judge - you need to be replaced, too.
The Governor’s Nominating Committee forwarded three names for consideration on Feb. 1. The finalists were interviewed and their legal background and work history were vetted by the committee. Additionally, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation conducted background investigations on the finalists.
“It’s clear that despite a thorough review and investigation, this was missed,’’ Kelly said, taking the fall for the nominating committee like you’d expect a good governor to do.
“In fairness to all the applicants, I ask that the nominating committee thoroughly review all applicants again including social media activity and send me additional names for consideration,’’ Kelly said. “Once this is done and background checks are complete, I will then submit a new nominee to the Kansas Senate for review and confirmation, prior to the end of the Legislative Session.’’
Due to recent problems with state employees and judicial nominees posting inflammatory comments on Twitter, the governor believes further review is necessary. The two remaining finalists, Sarah Warner and Marcia Wood, will be considered with the additional names following a thorough, follow-up review, it was reported.
“In an era when we increasingly see Twitter and other social media platforms being used to attack and divide, we can and must do better.’’ Kelly said. “The last 24 hours is just the latest example of the deterioration of political discourse - on both sides of the aisle. I hope all of those working in the public sphere will join me as I work to change the tone and rhetoric used both online and here in Topeka. Regardless of our political affiliation, we can and must do better.’’
Jack returned fire at Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle yesterday after the revelation of profanity-laced politically charged tweets derailed the Labette County district judge’s nomination to the Kansas Court of Appeals.
In comments from two years ago, Jack directed criticism toward conservative Republicans, including Wagle and President Donald Trump, and took positions on gun violence and abortion.
Wagle, a Republican from Wichita, said she was offended by the tweets and that Jack would fail to win approval in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Jack said that as a judge, he is bound by an ethical code that requires him to base decisions on facts and set opinions aside. And that is what he does, he said.
“Unfortunately,” Jack said, “Senate President Susan Wagle is not bound by the same ethic. She made it very clear that she had already made up her mind — and because of her position, the mind of the Senate — before I had an opportunity for a full and fair hearing.”
Jack then defended his tweets in a 400-word statement. “I pointed out when those in power, including the president of the United States, were misogynistic, racist and hypocritical,” Jack said. “I believe all citizens, regardless of their position, have a right and a responsibility to do so.”
Jack said his real mistake was not understanding Twitter. He said he believed he was communicating private opinions and didn’t understand they could be viewed by the public. That comment alone is proof enough for me that Jack just does not “get it’’ and has no business serving as a judge at any level.