Faculty Notes

Prof. James Sample’s ‘Retention Elections 2.010’ Cited in New Yorker Story on Kansas Supreme Court Elections

James Sample , Professor of Law

The Political War Against the Kansas Supreme Court
By Lincoln Caplan
The New Yorker
Feb. 5, 2016


This year provides a major test for the Kansas Supreme Court and its reputation: five of its seven justices must be reëlected by a majority of Kansas voters. While a Kansas judge has never lost a retention election, these have become intensely contested across the country in recent years, including in Kansas, and any justice who wants to be reëlected must raise money for his or her campaign and wage it earnestly.

Retention elections in 2010 in Iowa and Illinois, the legal scholar James Sample observed, represent “a bell that will never be un-rung.” In Iowa, the chief justice and two other justices were voted off the State Supreme Court, a year after the court had unanimously struck down a ban on same-sex marriage. That happened in large part, Sample concluded, because, in the face of a fierce, well-funded effort to oust them for making that ruling, the justices chose neither to raise money to defend themselves nor to campaign actively. In Illinois, by contrast, where the chief justice was inaccurately attacked for being anti-business, pro-criminal, and worse, he chose to campaign hard and was reëlected.

Read the full article.