Kansas governor announces supreme court appointment

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly (D) appointed Judge Kenyen Wall to succeed Justice Lawton Nuss on the Kansas Supreme Court. Nuss retired on December 17, 2019. Wall is Kelly’s second nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

Kenyen J. “K.J.” Wall was a partner at the Forbes Law Group when he was appointed to the Kansas Supreme Court. He previously worked as deputy general counsel for Chief Justice Lawton Nuss (2013-2015), as senior legal counsel at Federated Insurance (2008-2013), as an attorney in private practice (2004-2008), and as a law clerk to Judge John Lungstrum of the United States District Court for the District of Kansas (2002-2004). Wall received his undergraduate degree in communications from Kansas State University in 1993 and a master’s degree in rhetoric from the University of Minnesota in 1996. He earned his J.D. from the University of Kansas School of Law in 2001.

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 March 2020, five judges on the court were appointed by a Democratic governor and three judges were appointed by a Republican governor. There are no vacancies on the court.

In 2020, there have been nine supreme court vacancies in eight of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies were caused by retirements.

Additional reading:
State supreme court vacancies, 2020
State supreme court vacancies, 2019
Kansas Supreme Court
Kansas Supreme Court elections, 2020
Judicial selection in Kansas