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How Does The Kansas Court Of Appeals Work?

Located in the Kansas Judicial Center in Topeka, the Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court empowered to hear appeals from Kansas lower courts (district and municipal courts). Unlike the other courts in the Kansas Court System, the court was not initially established in the state constitution because it was created as a temporary court that assisted the Kansas Supreme Court with its vast number of cases. However, since 1977, the Court of Appeals has become an integral part of the judiciary in line with Article 30 of the Kansas Revised Statutes and Article 3 of the State’s Constitution. It hears direct appeals of final judgments of the district court’s civil or criminal cases, asides those that require a direct appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Kansas Court of appeals typically reviews cases that have already been tried in the lower courts. It has jurisdiction in appeals of civil and criminal cases such as family law cases, felony cases, juvenile cases, probate cases, civil lawsuits, small claims matters, etc. It also has original jurisdiction in habeas corpus actions. It also appeals to the decision of administrative agencies such as the Kansas Corporation Commission, the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals, and the Kansas Workers Compensation Appeals Board.

Asides holding original proceedings of habeas writ application cases, the court of appeals does not conduct trials. As such, its sessions do not involve witnesses, juries, new evidence, or court reporters. They resolve appealed cases by hearing oral arguments and reviewing trial records and written briefs documented in the initial trial. Cases on appeal are usually heard by either a panel of 3 judges assigned by the Chief Judge, or en banc by all 14 judges.

The justices investigate and analyze the laws concerned with the case, including the trial records of witness testimonies and admitted evidence. These are done to ascertain whether any legal errors occurred during the trial. After hearing the appeals, the presiding justices meet in private conferences to discuss the case, make a unanimous decision, and write their opinions. The court may decide to affirm or reverse the lower court’s decision or order the court to conduct a new trial. The final opinions are generally filed within 60 days of the hearing and published in a bound volume of the Kansas Court of Appeals Reports.

The 14 Court of Appeals judges are selected by the governor and confirmed by a majority vote of the Senate. These Judges serve four-year terms and are subject to retention by public vote for each successive 4-year term. According to Kansas statutes, potential nominees for the position of a Court of Appeals judge must be between the ages of 30 and 70. Such candidates must also be licensed and active Kansas lawyers, judges, or full-time educators at recognized law schools for at least ten years. After serving for at least one year, newly appointed judges must run in a retention election to complete their four-year term. If a majority of voters oppose retention, the judge is removed from office.

The Kansas Supreme Court appoints the Chief Judge of the court of appeals for an indefinite term. The Chief Judge is tasked with assigning judges to panels, fixing venues for arguments, allocating cases to each 3-judge panel, and appointing a presiding judge in the hearing panel. According to Article 2 of the Kansas Constitution, Judges of the Kansas Court of Appeals may be dismissed by impeachment and conviction. On recommendation from the commission on judicial qualifications, the Supreme Court may remove a judge of the Court of Appeals. The commission investigates accusations of unethical behavior, and if the charges are confirmed with credible evidence, the commission advises the Supreme Court to suspend or retire the judge.

Records of appealed cases in the Kansas Court of Appeals are open to the public pursuant to the Kansas Open Records Act, provided they are not exempt from disclosure. These records are accessible via the Appellate Case Inquiry System, which contains a registry of actions for cases brought before the Kansas Court of Appeals. Inquirers may access case information using the appellate court case number, the party name, or county where the case was originally heard.

The Kansas Judicial Branch also maintains an online repository of slip opinions. These are copies of filed case opinions before they are printed in bound volumes. Slip opinions are usually posted online after the courts file them, and the available online slip opinions date back to October 25, 1996. Additionally, the Kansas Historical Society maintains historic Court of Appeals cases in archived indexes. These cases are inter-filed by case number, and requesters will require a party name or appellate court case number to retrieve them.

The Kansas Court of Appeals is located at the:

Kansas Judicial Center

301 SW 10th Avenue

Topeka, KS 66612–1507

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