Judge criticized by abortion foes named to top Kansas court

Analysis on Litigation

Kansas' Democratic governor on Monday named a veteran trial-court judge who is opposed by the state's most influential anti-abortion group to the state Supreme Court ? an appointment that's likely to further stoke conservatives' efforts to change how such positions are filled.

Gov. Laura Kelly's selection of Shawnee County District Judge Evelyn Wilson comes with many Republican lawmakers already seeking to give the GOP-controlled Legislature power it doesn't have now to block appointments to the state's high court. Abortion opponents also are pushing for a change in the state constitution that would overturn the court's April ruling that protected abortion rights.

Kelly passed over two veteran lawyers working for Republican state Attorney General Derek Schmidt. Kansans for Life, an anti-abortion group long influential in GOP politics, opposed Wilson's appointment because of her husband's past political contributions to Kelly and other abortion-rights candidates.

“It’s my sense that Judge Wilson is more than qualified to fill this role,” Kelly told reporters during a Statehouse news conference. “Ideology was not really part of the conversation with any of the nominees. "

Kansans for Life said Wilson's selection shows the need to overturn the high court's abortion-rights ruling to protect "women and their babies." Lobbyist Jeanne Gawdun said the group is not surprised that Kelly would make an appointment to further her "vision for unlimited abortion.”

Wilson has not ruled on major abortion cases and declined to comment on the court's abortion-rights ruling declaring that access to abortion is a “fundamental” right under the Kansas Constitution. She will replace former Justice Lee Johnson, who retired in September and was a member of the 6-1 majority in that case.

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