The Kansas Supreme Court is embroiled in conflict with the legislature over funding of schools. The response from the legislature, among other things, was legislation to change the relationship between the Kansas Supreme Court and the trial courts. The same thing is happening in the state of Washington.
Two bills before the Washington State Legislature could affect the composition of the state’s Supreme Court, writes Bill Raftery for Gavel to Gavel. One bill, HB 2784, seeks to “declare the existing 9-member court unconstitutional.” The Washington State Constitution “provides for a 5-member supreme court, but gives the legislature the power to increase its membership” which the legislature has done, “creating the current 9-member court in the early 1900s.” The bill would return the court to 5 justices and remove the legislature’s ability to increase its size. It would also require “all 9 current members of the court [to] immediately face one another in an election to fill the 5 seats.” Another bill, HJR 4217, would amend the constitution to shorten the court’s terms “from 6 years down to 4 years,” and “justices would be limited to two terms, for a total of 8 years.”
Raftery adds, “If applied retroactively, the amendment could force several members of the court off the bench.”