The Kansas Bar Association was founded in 1882 as a voluntary association for dedicated legal professionals and has more than 7,200 members, including lawyers, judges, law students, and paralegals.
The KBA is dedicated to:
- advancing the professionalism and legal skills of lawyers,
- promoting the interests of the legal profession,
- providing services to its members,
- advocating positions on law-related issues,
- encouraging public understanding of the law, and
- promoting the effective administration of our system of justice
The Kansas Bar Association, founded in 1882, may admit any person of good moral character in good standing as a member of the bar of any state, territory, or possession of the United States. At its inception, admission fees were $5 and annual dues were $3, which included a ticket to the annual banquet.
The Association was formed for the following purposes: to uphold the constitutions of the United States and the state of Kansas; to advance the professionalism and legal skills of lawyers; to promote the interests of the legal profession; to provide services to its members; to advocate positions on law-related issues; to encourage public understanding of the law; and to promote the effective administration of our system of justice.
In 1910 the KBA formed the Ethics Committee after Kansas adopted the American Bar Association Code of Ethics. The committee was established to investigate complaints against lawyers and to institute proceedings for code violations. The creation of this committee was also an important step in helping to improve the tarnished image of lawyers, but it was still insufficient to dispel distrust with some segments of the public and their view.
The Journal of the Kansas Bar Association made its debut in 1932; however, it was not the first legal publication in Kansas. The Kansas Law Journal, published from 1885 to 1888, was a small weekly publication. The cost of the Journal, at the time, was not to exceed $1 per member in dues compared to today’s Journal, which is $25.
Throughout its long history, the KBA has established efforts, such as the statewide Lawyer Referral Service in 1974; the Supreme Court adopted the voluntary IOLTA program in 1981; the KBA established the first section, Administrative Law in 1982; the Supreme Court adopted mandatory CLE based on a KBA recommendation in 1985; the first woman elected president of the KBA, Hon. Christel Marquardt in 1987; the Supreme Court established the Lawyers Fund for Client Protection in 1993; the first African-American KBA board member elected in 2004; membership broke 7,000 for the first time in 2007; and the KBA Board of Governors approves the Pillars of Professionalism to replace Hallmarks of Professionalism in 2011.
The Association has neither headquarters prior to 1951 nor did it have an executive secretary. John W. Shuart was hired to serve as executive secretary and the KBA’s first offices were procured in the Garlinghouse Building on South Quincy St. in Topeka. Soon a clerk typist was employed, along with a typewriter and modest furnishings. Eventually the offices would be outgrown and the KBA would move to the Columbian Building on West 6th St., where space would once again become tight, and a move was made to 1334 Topeka Ave.
During the 1970s, members of the Associations wanted a building to call their own and a lot was purchased a block south of the Kansas Judicial Center in Topeka. Funds were raised to helps construct a modern, one-story office building. The dedication ceremonies were held October 14, 1981. In 2008 the building was rededicated after a yearlong expansion and renovation project.
In its infancy, the Association had little difficulty finding a worthy cause to adopt. Their first priority was to bring relief to the Supreme Court with its overburdened docket. The Court, at the time, only had three members, and the state itself only consisted of five district judges. Relief for the Court was an ever-pressing problem, and in 1900, a constitutional amendment was passed to increase the number of justices from three to seven.
Historically, executive heads of government selected judges, and this practice prevailed during colonial times when the courts were staffed by appointees of The English Crown. Georgia became the first state to choose its first judge by popular vote in 1793 and other states soon followed. Twenty-two of 34 states were using the voting method for selecting judges by the time the Civil War began, including Kansas.
In 1913, the legislature enacted a law providing a nonpartisan nomination and election of candidates for the bench. The two receiving the most votes for each position to be filled would become the nominees and their names would be placed on the general election ballot (without party designation). This statute was repealed two years later.
A concurrent resolution was introduced in the House in 1953 for adopting the Missouri Plan; it would be killed in the House Judiciary Committee and two years latter in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Association renewed their support of the Missouri Plan and urged its introduction into the next session; however, it was amended for selecting justices only and the amendment carried by a substantial margin during the 1958 general election.