On June 3, the Kansas Senate failed to confirm Carl Folsom III as a Kansas Court of Appeals judge.
Mr. Folsom, a federal public defender and adjunct law professor at the University of Kansas, was denied confirmation because of his representation of indigent clients whom many Kansas senators deemed loathsome.
In rejecting Mr. Folsom as a judge on the Court of Appeals, the Kansas Senate, which incidentally has no attorney members, demonstrated its vast and woeful lack of understanding, and blatant disregard, of our system of justice and the rule of law.
Both the United States and Kansas Constitutions recognize the fundamental right of an accused person to representation by counsel. Public defenders — who represent, at great personal sacrifice, our neighbors living in poverty — are the backbone of our system of justice.
Public defenders, like all lawyers, take an oath to protect our Constitutional rights, and, like all lawyers, are ethically bound to zealously represent their clients, no matter what they personally might feel about the crimes with which the accused is charged.
The Kansas Senate’s rejection of an eminently qualified candidate simply because he represents Kansans living in poverty, who otherwise would have no representation, speaks volumes about the Senate’s priorities, or lack of them.
Diversity on the bench strengthens the judiciary and provides the greatest benefit to the people of Kansas. In 2019, the total number of criminal appeals commenced comprised 1,242 of 1,717, or 72.3%, of all appeals filed in the Kansas Court of Appeals.
What a benefit it would be to have a judge appointed to that Court who has the vast experience in criminal law that Mr. Folsom has.
In failing to confirm Mr. Folsom’s appointment, the Kansas Senate has demonstrated that it cares nothing for the Constitutional rights of the most vulnerable Kansans.
Indeed, the Kansas Senate, in failing to understand the purpose of the confirmation process and apply it correctly, has undermined the rule of law and imperiled the Constitutional rights of all Kansans.
Teresa Woody is the litigation director of Kansas Appleseed, a statewide organization that believes Kansans, working together, can build a state full of thriving, inclusive, and just communities.