Kansas Supreme Court

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Kansas Supreme Court
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Court information
Justices:   7
Location:   Topeka, Kansas
Salary
Chief:  $139,000
Associates:  $136,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Assisted appointment
Term:   6 years
Active justices

Lawton Nuss  •  Lee Johnson  •  Marla Luckert  •  Carol Beier  •  Eric Rosen  •  Daniel Biles  •  Caleb Stegall  •  

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The Kansas Supreme Court is the highest court in Kansas. It consists of seven justices, each of whom is appointed by the governor, currently Sam Brownback. The court is located at the Kansas Judicial Center in Topeka, Kansas.[1]

Justices

Justices of the Kansas Supreme Court

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.[2][1]

The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected by
Chief Justice Lawton Nuss2002-2016Gov. Bill Graves
Justice Lee Johnson2007-1/10/2021Gov. Kathleen Sebelius
Justice Marla Luckert2003-2016Gov. Bill Graves
Justice Carol Beier2003-2016Gov. Kathleen Sebelius
Justice Eric Rosen2005-1/10/2021Gov. Kathleen Sebelius
Justice Daniel Biles2009-2016Gov. Kathleen Sebelius
Justice Caleb Stegall2014-2016Gov. Sam Brownback


Chief justice

As designated by the Kansas Constitution, chief justices are appointed according to seniority, and have the responsibility of supervising the court and the "unified judicial department."[1]

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.[3] Lawton Nuss became the chief justice when Davis resigned.

Jurisdiction

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."[4]

Judicial selection

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.[1]

Political outlook

See also: Political outlook of State Supreme Court Justices

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.[5]

Nominating commission

See: Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission.

The Supreme Court Nominating Commission is composed 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.

Qualifications

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.[2]

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.[6][7]

Caseloads

Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2014 1,930 3,169
2013 1,784 2,777
2012 1,934 2,815
2011 1,817 2,577
2010 1,854 2,784
2009 1,957 2,972
2008 1,862 2,693
2007 2,016 3,005

[8][9][10][11]

Please note: These statistics include the supreme court and court of appeals. The state does not provide separate caseload numbers for each court.

Notable decisions

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.[12]

Ethics

Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

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.[13]

History of the court

The Kansas state capitol in Topeka, Kansas, which houses the Kansas Supreme 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.[14]

Courthouse

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.[15]

The 8 Wonders of Kansas[16]

In 1976, work stopped with the artists' death; Malcolm Frazier, his son, was approved to complete the piece.

See also

External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Kansas Judicial Branch - Supreme Court
  2. 2.0 2.1 American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial Selection: Kansas," archived October 2, 2014
  3. Lawrence Journal World, "Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Davis dies one day after retiring," August 5, 2010
  4. National Center for State Courts, "Kansas Court Structure, 2004," accessed March 26, 2015
  5. Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
  6. Kansas Judicial Branch, "Commission on Judicial Qualifications," accessed March 26, 2015
  7. American Judicature Society, "Methods of Selection: Removal of Judges," archived October 2, 2014
  8. Kansas Courts, "2014 Summary of Caseload," accessed April 6, 2015
  9. Kansas Courts, "2013 Summary of Caseload," accessed September 19, 2014
  10. Kansas Courts, "2012 Annual Report"
  11. Kansas Courts, "Annual Reports for the Courts of Kansas"
  12. Star Tribune, "Kansas Supreme Court says state is inadequately funding public schools, violating constitution," March 7, 2014
  13. Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
  14. Kansas Judicial Branch, "History of the Kansas Supreme Court Justices," accessed March 26, 2015
  15. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  16. Kansas Sample Foundation: The 8 Wonders of Kansas, "Poco Frazier's Justice, Kansas Judicial Center, Topeka," accessed March 26, 2015

2014

Retention
JudgeElection Vote
RosenEric Rosen 52.7% ApprovedA
JohnsonLee Johnson 52.6% ApprovedA

2012

JudgeIncumbencyDivisionRetention voteRetention Vote %
MoritzNancy Moritz   ApprovedAYes666,22870.9%ApprovedA

2010

See also: 2010 State Supreme Court elections

Daniel Biles (62%), Marla Luckert (62.7%), Lawton Nuss (62.5%) and Carol Beier (63.2%) were retained in 2010.[1]

2008

See also: State Supreme Court elections, 2008

Two justices were retained to the Kansas Supreme Court: Eric Rosen with 69.9% of the vote and Lee A. Johnson with 70.2% of the vote.[2]

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