The Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission received 17 applications for a spot on the state’s highest court this week. These 17 individuals are vying for the position coming open when Chief justice Lawton Nuss retires on December 17th. Several applicants had previously applied for the court when the commission interviewed for Justice Lee Johnson’s position in October.
The 17 applicants include five judges and 12 lawyers. Among these 17 are the three finalists for the current open position, Dennis Depew, Judge Evelyn Wilson and Steve Obermeier. Gov. Laura Kelly has a few more weeks before she is required to select one of these three finalists for the post left open by the retirement of Justice Lee Johnson. However, the deadline to apply for the Nuss opening was last week. In ordered to be considered by the Supreme Court Nomination Commission for the second position, they all had to reapply.
The applicants are:
Kristafer R. Ailslieger, lawyer, Topeka
Daniel Cahill, judge; Kansas City
Angela D. Coble, lawyer, Salina
Henry R. Cox, lawyer, Shawnee
Dennis D. Depew, lawyer, Neodesha
Randall L. Hodgkinson, lawyer, Topeka
Michael P. Joyce, judge, Leawood
Russell J. Keller, lawyer, Fairway
Michael C. Leitch, lawyer, Lawrence
Thomas E. Malone, judge, Topeka
Steven J. Obermeier, lawyer, Olathe
David A. Ricke, judge, Rose Hill
Lyndon W. Vix, lawyer, Maize Brenda S. Watkins, lawyer, Olathe
The date for interviews will be determined on November 20th.
The Commission is a nine-person panel with five lawyers and four non-lawyers. The commission members can be found here - http://www.kscourts.org/pdf/SCNCroster.pdf. The commission will be working under some new guidelines this session, because the laws concerning commission meetings were amended recently. Those new laws make these interviews open meetings and subject to the Kansas Open Meetings Act. However, there are some differences in that the nominating commission can only enter executive session to discuss financial issues and KBI background check information. The commission has set a few guidelines of its own which can be found here - http://kscourts.org/Kansas-Courts/General-Information/2019-News-Releases/091819c.pdf
The Supreme Court Nominating Commission is an independent body. Four of its members are appointed by the governor and represent each of the state’s four congressional districts. These appointees are not attorneys. Four more members are attorneys elected by other attorneys within each of the congressional districts. The commission chair is an attorney elected by attorneys in a statewide vote.
The Commission will review each applicant’s:
Legal and judicial experience
Character and ethics
Service to the community
Respect for colleagues
The Commission will nominate the three most qualified applicants. Governor Laura Kelly will pick one of these three nominees to be the next Kansas Supreme Court Justice.