Governor Laura Kelly (D) of Kansas will be able to appoint two justices to the seven-member Kansas Supreme Court due to two justices retiring in 2019. Justice Lee Johnson will retire on September 8, and Chief Justice Lawton Nuss will retire on December 17.
Under Kansas law, in the event of a state supreme court vacancy, the governor selects a replacement from a list of three individuals submitted by the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission. Newly appointed justices serve for at least one year, after which they must run for retention in the next general election. Subsequent terms last for six years. Johnson’s and Nuss’ replacements will be Gov. Kelly’s first and second nominees to the court.
The Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission is a nine-member independent body created by the state’s constitution to recommend individuals to the governor for appointment to the state supreme court. When a vacancy opens on the court, the commission reviews applications and interviews candidates in public hearings. The commission then recommends three candidates to the governor.
The commission has nine members: four must be non-attorneys and are appointed by the governor, while another four are attorneys selected by members of the bar in each of the state’s four congressional districts. The chair of the commission, the ninth member, is a lawyer chosen in a statewide vote of lawyers who belong to the Kansas Bar Association.
The court’s chief justice is chosen by seniority. Justice Marla Luckert will succeed Nuss as chief justice of the court.
The Kansas Supreme Court currently consists of:
- Justice Carol Beier – Appointed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D)
- Justice Daniel Biles – Appointed by Gov. Sebelius
- Justice Lee Johnson – Appointed by Gov. Sebelius
- Justice Eric Rosen – Appointed by Gov. Sebelius
- Justice Caleb Stegall – Appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback (R)
- Justice Marla Luckert – Appointed by Gov. Bill Graves (R)
- Justice Lawton Nuss – Appointed by Gov. Graves
The Kansas Supreme Court is the highest court in Kansas. It sits in Topeka in the Kansas Judicial Center.