Kansas governor announces supreme court appointment

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly (D) appointed Judge Evelyn Wilson to succeed Justice Lee Johnson on the Kansas Supreme Court. Johnson retired on September 8, 2019. Wilson is Kelly’s first nominee to the seven-member supreme court.At the time of her supreme court appointment, Wilson was the chief judge for the Third Judicial District in Shawnee County, Kansas. She first joined the district court in 2004. Before serving on the Third Judicial District Court, Wilson was an attorney in private practice. Wilson received her undergraduate degrees in business and economics from Bethany College in 1982, and her J.D. from Washburn University of Topeka in 1985.

In the event of a vacancy on the Kansas Supreme Court, 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.

The Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission is a nine-member independent body created by the Kansas Constitution. The commission has nine members: four non-attorneys appointed by the governor and four 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 attorneys who are members of the Kansas Bar Association.

Founded in 1861, the Kansas Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. As of December 2019, four judges on the court were appointed by a Democratic governor and three judges were appointed by a Republican governor. There is one vacancy on the court.

In 2019, there have been 22 supreme court vacancies across 14 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Retirements caused 14 of the vacancies. Two former justices took jobs in the private sector. One vacancy occurred when a justice was elevated to chief justice of the court, one occurred when a chief justice died, and four vacancies occurred when the justices were elevated to federal judicial positions.

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Additional reading:
State Supreme Court Vacancies, 2019
State Supreme Court Vacancies, 2020
Kansas Supreme Court
Judicial Selection in Kansas
Kansas Supreme Court, 2020