Kansas Supreme Court
|Kansas Supreme Court|
|Method:||Comm. select., Gov. appt.|
The Kansas Supreme Court is the highest court in Kansas. It consists of seven justices, each of whom is appointed by the Governor of Kansas, currently Sam Brownback. The court is located at the Kansas Judicial Center in Topeka, Kansas.
The court has seven justices; they are chosen by a commission, and serve renewable six-year terms subject to retention votes. The mandatory age of retirement for a Kansas Supreme Court justice is 70, but a justice may choose to finish out their term if they turn 70 prior to its expiration.The current justices of the court are:
|Chief Justice Lawton Nuss||2002-2016||Gov. Bill Graves|
|Justice Lee Johnson||2007-1/10/2021||Gov. Kathleen Sebelius|
|Justice Marla Luckert||2003-2016||Gov. Bill Graves|
|Justice Carol Beier||2003-2016||Gov. Kathleen Sebelius|
|Justice Eric Rosen||2005-1/10/2021||Gov. Kathleen Sebelius|
|Justice Daniel Biles||2009-2016||Gov. Kathleen Sebelius|
|Justice Caleb Stegall||2014-2016||Gov. Sam Brownback|
When former Chief Justice Kay McFarland retired in January 2009, Robert Davis became the court's chief justice. Davis resigned on August 3, 2010, and died the next day. Lawton Nuss became the chief justice when Davis resigned.
The Kansas Supreme Court has mandatory jurisdiction in the following types of cases, according to the now-defunct American Judicature Society: "civil, criminal, administrative agency, disciplinary, certified questions from federal courts, original proceeding cases."
It has discretionary jurisdiction in the following types of cases: "civil, criminal, administrative agency, juvenile, original proceeding, and interlocutory decision cases."
Kansas chooses its justices using a selection commission. The Supreme Court Nominating Commission selects three potential candidates for placement as a supreme court justice and presents their recommendations to the governor. The governor must then appoint one justice from the list. If a justice is appointed, he must stand for a retention vote after one year. Election to the Kansas Supreme Court gives a term of six years.
In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Kansas was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Kansas received a score of 0.12. Based on the justices selected, Kansas was the 17th most conservative court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.
The Supreme Court Nominating Commission is comprised of representatives from each congressional district and, during times of judicial vacancy, is in charge of compiling a list of potential supreme court justices to present to the governor.
To serve on this court, a judge must:
- have at least 10 years of active and continuous law practice in the state;
- be at least thirty years old; and
- be no older than 70. If a sitting judge turns 70 while on the bench, he or she may serve out the term.
Removal of justices
Kansas judges, according to Article 2 of the Kansas Constitution, may be removed: by impeachment and conviction, by the supreme court on recommendation of the commission on judicial qualifications, or by the governor due to incapacitation.
Please note: These statistics include the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. The state does not provide separate caseload numbers for each court.
Court rules state's under funding of schools is unconstitutional (2014)On March 7, 2014, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the state's funding to schools was unconstitutionally low. The court said that legislators needed to remedy the disparity of funds between school districts by July 1. They were specifically ordered to increase funding for general operations and capital improvement projects in poor districts. The ruling did not say exactly how much must be spent on education overall--that decision was sent back down to a lower court.
In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Kansas earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.
History of the court
At its inception, the Kansas Constitution provided that one chief justice and two associate justices would comprise the supreme court, and would be elected for six-year terms. In 1900, the court increased from three justices to seven. In 1958, the selection of justices changed from partisan election to an appointment process.
The Kansas Supreme Court sits in Topeka in the Kansas Judicial Center, which was completed in 1978. The building holds a 22-foot white marble statute created by artist Bernard "Poco" Frazier. According to the "Eight Wonders of Kansas:"
|“||A new symbol of "Justice", conceived and designed by Bernard "Poco" Frazier (Athol, KS native), kneels on an eight-foot high granite pedestal at the center of the Kansas Judicial Center. Departing from the traditional upright figure of a woman, blindfolded with sword and scales, the new symbol emerges in a more gentle kneeling posture of a woman, eyes open, looking at her upraised arm, upon which is perched the symbolic figure of the Prairie Falcon, native to Kansas.||”|
—The 8 Wonders of Kansas
In 1976, work stopped with the artists' death; Malcolm Frazier, his son, was approved to complete the piece.
- News: Kansas Supreme Court hears arguments on smoking ban, December 15, 2011
- Kansas Judicial Branch - Supreme Court
- American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial Selection: Kansas," archived October 2, 2014
- Lawrence Journal World, "Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Davis dies one day after retiring," August 5, 2010
- National Center for State Courts, "Kansas Court Structure, 2004," accessed March 26, 2015
- Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
- Kansas Judicial Branch, "Commission on Judicial Qualifications," accessed March 26, 2015
- American Judicature Society, "Methods of Selection: Removal of Judges," archived October 2, 2014
- Kansas Courts, "2013 Annual Report," accessed September 19, 2014 (timed out)
- Kansas Courts, "2012 Annual Report"
- Kansas Courts, "Annual Reports for the Courts of Kansas"
- Star Tribune, "Kansas Supreme Court says state is inadequately funding public schools, violating constitution," March 7, 2014
- Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
- Kansas Judicial Branch, "History of the Kansas Supreme Court Justices," accessed March 26, 2015
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Kansas Sample Foundation: The 8 Wonders of Kansas, "Poco Frazier's Justice, Kansas Judicial Center, Topeka," accessed March 26, 2015
|Judge||Incumbency||Division||Retention vote||Retention Vote %|
- See also: 2010 State Supreme Court elections
- See also: State Supreme Court elections, 2008
|Former||Kay McFarland • Robert Davis (Kansas) • David Josiah Brewer • Nancy Caplinger-Moritz • Earl O'Connor •|
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