Kansans rely on the Kansas court system for fairness and justice under the rule of law. Because judges are the gatekeepers of the court system, it is imperative that judges exhibit certain qualifications, including:
• Integrity: A judge should be honest and committed to the rule of law.
• Professional Competence: A judge should have extensive legal knowledge.
• Judicial Temperament: A judge should be neutral, respectful and composed.
• Experience: A judge should have a strong record of excellence in the law.
• Commitment to Service: A judge should be committed to all aspects of the administration of justice.
In Kansas, openings on the Supreme Court are filled using the merit selection process. Under this process, established in the Kansas Constitution in 1958, when a vacancy is open on the Kansas Supreme Court, the nonpartisan Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission reviews applications, conducts public interviews and submits a list of three qualified candidates to the governor. The governor chooses one of the three to appoint to the open judicial seat. The governor has 60 days to select a candidate from those three nominees.
To be considered as a candidate for judicial office, an applicant must be a licensed attorney in Kansas over the age of 30, and must have been active as a lawyer, judge or teacher of law at an accredited law school for at least ten years.
The Supreme Court Nominating Commission has nine members—one lawyer and one non-lawyer from each of the state’s four congressional districts, plus an additional lawyer who serves as the commission’s chair. Lawyer members are elected by their peers (active Kansas attorneys), and non-lawyer members are appointed by the governor. To clarify, the Kansas Bar Association is not involved in the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. The KBA does not appoint any lawyer members to this commission. The members of the commission come from diverse backgrounds.
The 14 judges of the Kansas Court of Appeals are, like the Supreme Court justices, appointed by the governor. However, instead of choosing from a slate of candidates recommended by a nominating commission, the governor is free to nominate anyone—as long as the nominee is a licensed attorney in Kansas between the ages of 30 and 70, and has been active as a lawyer, judge or law professor for at least ten years at an accredited law school. The governor’s nominee is then subject to confirmation by the Kansas Senate (K.S.A. 20-3020 et. seq.).