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How Does The Kansas Supreme Court Work?

The Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority and court of last resort in the state of Kansas. It has judicial responsibilities that may include;

  • Conducting exclusive hearings for cases and appeals involving capital punishment or death penalty
  • Holding hearings for issues concerning the state bar and judiciary, and also judicial qualifications
  • Exclusionary hearings for appeals regarding class A felonies and similar criminal cases from the district courts
  • Hearing direct appeals in cases where a statute has been held unconstitutional
  • Reviewing cases decided by the state Court of Appeals

The Supreme Court is composed of justices that typically do not conduct trials, but make their judgment or decrees by interpreting the law. They decide over appealed cases by reviewing records of the trials and hearing the attorneys’ oral arguments. After thoroughly reviewing and researching the law involved in the case, they write an opinion.

The Kansas Supreme Court is also tasked with setting a mandatory legal precedent that the other courts must follow. As mandated by the Constitution, the court has unlimited administrative authority over Kansas Courts; therefore, its rules govern the appellate practice in the Kansas Court of Appeals and district courts’ procedures. It also regulates the state’s legal profession by setting professional obligations that govern the conduct, examination, certification, and admission of attorneys and official court reporters. The Court ensures that judicial and non-judicial employees obey the set rules through disciplinary actions. Finally, the Supreme Court is responsible for approving and submitting an annual budget of the whole judicial branch to the state government.

A selection commission facilitates the state’s appointment of Supreme Court Justices through a merit-based nomination process. The Nominating Commission consists of nine members, including five attorney members and four non-attorney members from the state’s four congressional districts. Other active Kansas attorneys elect the Commission’s lawyer members, and the governor appoints the non-legal members. The nominating Commission includes an additional lawyer who serves as the Commission’s chairperson.

The Commission reviews all applicants for the position. It selects the three most qualified nominees to the state governor, who is then charged to select a candidate from those nominees within 60 days. By constitutional mandate, an attorney may be considered for a Justice position if they are between the ages of 30 and 70. The individual must also be licensed and actively practicing law in Kansas as a lawyer, judge, or full-time teacher at a certified law school for at least ten years. Persons that meet the requirements and aspire for the office must complete nomination application forms that outline their educational, professional, and financial backgrounds. The Supreme Court Nominating Commission reviews these forms, interviews potential nominees, and votes by secret ballot to select the most qualified of the bunch to submit the governor.

On some occasions, the governor may be unable to make an appointment within the 60 days ultimatum. In this case, the Kansas Supreme Court’s active Chief Justice has to select one of the three nominees to become a Justice. After a year in office, the justice has to undergo a retention vote in the next general election for approval from most electors. The Justice may remain in office for a 6-year term if approval is received. At the end of each term, to remain in office, the justice must be subjected to retention votes until the mandatory retirement at 70.

The Supreme Court Chief Justice acts as the court’s administrative authority and the Kansas government’s unified judicial branch. As designated by the Kansas Constitution, the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is determined by seniority. This implies that the justice who has served the most prolonged time automatically succeeds a retiring Chief Justice. The other six justices are in charge of one of six state judicial departments.

The Kansas Constitution also outlines three methods for removing a justice from the Supreme Court if the need arises. First, a Justice may be dismissed through an impeachment process if proven to have committed misconduct. The Supreme Court may also remove a justice based on a recommendation from the Commission on judicial qualifications. Lastly, if a Justice becomes incapacitated, the State Governor has the authority to retire the individual from office.

The Kansas Supreme court is located at:

Kansas Judicial Branch

301 SW 10th Avenue

Topeka, KS 66612–1507

The Kansas Judicial Branch maintains records of the court’s dockets and unedited oral arguments electronically on its website. The records are always open to the public and may be found using the docket number. Usually, these records are segmented and stored in the state’s archives. The Kansas Historical Society maintains case files of the supreme court at the State Archives. The inquirer must know the case file number or at least the case holder’s name to access a case file.

Requesters may also find records of cases before the Kansas Supreme Court through the Appellate Court’s clerk by contacting the office at:

Kansas Judicial Center

301 SW 10th Avenue, Room 107

Topeka, KS 66612–1507

Phone: (785) 296–3229

Fax: (785) 296–1028

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