The KBA Advocate is the weekly KBA legislative newsletter that contains up-to-date information on legislation that impacts your practice. It is only published when the legislature is in session and is sent to all KBA members electronically via the KBA Weekly.
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.).
On October 2nd the KBA will host its Trivia Night Fundraiser for Kansas Legal Services (KLS). The event will pit Washburn Law School against KU Law School in a battle of wits. The trivia contest will take place at the Historic Harley-Davidson. If you’re interested you can find more information here - https://www.ksbar.org/event/LawSchoolTrivia2019
The KBA will also attend the Wichita Bar Association’s Judges’ Day on October 3rd. WBA Judge’s Day will include a Golf Tournament, Tennis/Pickle Ball matches, a Bike Ride, an event at the Wichita Brewery and a BBQ at the Botanical Gardens. See; https://www.wichitabar.org/page/UpcomingEvents
The KBA will then meet with its Board of Governors on Friday October 4th at the WBA.
Finally, the 10-day run will end with the Investiture Ceremony for Rachel L. Pickering. Judge Pickering will be officially sworn-in at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, October 4th at the Shawnee county Courthouse.
At 2:00 pm this afternoon—Tuesday, May 28th—the Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee will convene to discuss the nomination of Sarah E. Warner to the Kansas Court of Appeals. This position was vacated when Judge Patrick McAnany retired earlier this year.
This judicial confirmation hearing will be the first for Gov. Laura Kelly, although this is her second nominee for this position. As has been widely reported, Gov. Kelly’s initial nominee, Judge Jeffry Jack, failed to gain the needed support for the Kansas Senate. This after a quick ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court that the Jack nomination could not be withdrawn.
The Warner nomination will be voted on by the full Senate on Sine Die, May 29th. The Senate goes into session for Sine Die at 10:00 am.
The Senate may also attempt to vote on a constitutional amendment to alter the way judges are selected for the Kansas Supreme Court. Sen. Ty Masterson’s (R-Andover) motion to bring SCR 1620 to the Senate floor will take place tomorrow. This concurrent resolution would switch the selection method from merit selection to an appoint/confirm model. Some senators are anxious to change the merit selection method in response to the Jack nomination issues. Sen. Hensley (D-Topeka) would like to simply correct KSA 20-3020 to include a withdrawal provision. How the Senate proceeds remains to be seen.
Normally, Sine Die is a formality and not much real business is undertaken. However, this year has been anything but “normal,” and a lot of issues remain up in the air at this moment. This could be a busy end to the session, or it could simply peter out.