Despite support from across the state’s legal community, the Kansas Senate voted once again Thursday to deny attorney Carl Folsom appointment to the state court of appeals.
Folsom would have been the first former public defender to serve on the court. Senate Republicans rejected his nomination for the second time in a year over concerns that his experience would make him an “activist judge” who might not be fair to the families of crime victims.
Folsom, a graduate of the KU law school, has worked in the Kansas Appellate Defender’s office, and was an assistant Federal Public Defender in Kansas and Oklahoma. He spent three years as a civil attorney at a private firm and is an adjunct professor at the KU law school.
Prior to his confirmation hearing, lawmakers received letters of support from the U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas, Steve McAllister, former Kansas Senator Jeff King and several attorneys and prosecutors across the state.
Those letters did not sway their votes.
Thursday’s 18-17 vote was identical to the margin defeat in June, three votes shy of the 21 needed for a confirmation.
Senate Majority Leader Gene Sullentrop said that he believed any court would benefit from an experienced public defender but that a judge on the appeals court needed a broader experience than just that.
“Hopefully he’ll gain that in the future and perhaps he could be re-recommended,” Sullentrop, a Wichita Republican, said.
Gov. Laura Kelly, who nominated Folsom, said she was disappointed with the senate’s decision considering Folsom’s support and experience.
“After the division and tragedy our country has faced over the last ten months, this vote sends the wrong message that legislative leaders are still putting partisan politics ahead of their constitutionally-mandated duties. Kansans deserve better,” Kelly said in a statement.
Senate Minority leader, Dinah Sykes, attributed the outcome to politics.
“It is clear that this was, in fact, a cynical political game aimed to undermine our Governor at the expense of an immensely qualified man’s career,” Sykes said in a statement.
-As evidence that he would operate as an activist judge, Republican senators pointed to answers Folsom had given indicating that he would defer to state and federal supreme court precedent in his decisions.
“Case law should not overrule the constitution or our statute,” Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, a Galena Republican, said.
Although Republican Senators insisted in debate that their reservations had nothing to do with Folsom’s background as a public defender, Sen. Ethan Corson, a Prairie Village Democrat, questioned whether the attorney was receiving unfair treatment nonetheless.
This article was originally published by the Kansas City Star, here.
Paid for by The Senate Democrats Committee, Cory Sheedy, Treasurer.