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Karen Arnold-Burger

Chief Judge Karen Arnold-Burger

appointed 2011

Chief Judge

Chief Judge Karen Arnold-Burger is a fourth-generation Kansan born in Kansas City, Kansas. She attended Johnson County Community College and the University of Kansas for her undergraduate degrees and earned a law degree from the University of Kansas School of Law. She worked as a municipal and federal prosecutor and then as a municipal judge before being named to the Kansas Court of Appeals. She became chief judge in 2017.

Current term

January 2021–January 2025

Appointed to court January 2011


Judicial experience

2017–present, chief judge, Court of Appeals

  • Chair, Pretrial Justice Task Force, Report 2020

  • Member, Supreme Court Language Access Committee

2011–17, judge, Court of Appeals

  • Chair, Supreme Court Budget Advisory Council, Report  2013

1996–2011, presiding judge, Overland Park, Kansas, Municipal Court

1991–96, judge, Overland Park, Kansas, Municipal Court


Previous professional experience

1989–91, assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. District Court of Kansas, Kansas City, Kansas

1981–1989, first assistant city attorney, Overland Park, Kansas



University of Memphis, graduate, Institute for Faculty Excellence in Judicial Education, 2000

University of Kansas School of Law, J.D., 1981

University of Kansas, B.S., political science, psychology, and personnel administration, with distinction, 1978

  • Phi Beta Kappa

  • Sunflower State Award for outstanding women majoring in political science

Johnson County Community College, 1975–76

Shawnee Mission North High School, 1975


Professional memberships and activities

American Bar Association

  • Past member, executive board, National Conference of Specialized Court Judges

Kansas Municipal Judges Association

  • Past president

Earl E. O'Connor Inn of Court

  • Past president

Johnson County Bar Association

  • Past president

University of Kansas School of Law

  • Past member, Board of Governors

National Judicial College

  • Adjunct faculty

  • Member, Faculty Council


Awards and honors

Johnson County Bar Association, Community Service Award for Quindaro Historic Preservation, 2023

Kansas Bar Association, Outstanding Service Award, 2021

Kansas Continuing Legal Education board, Robert L. Gernon Award, 2021

University of Kansas School of Law, Distinguished Alumni, 2018

Smiling Bull Award, Leavenworth County Bar Association, 2018

Amelia Earhart Award, Kansas Women Attorneys Association, 2016

V. Robert Payant Excellence in Teaching Award, National Judicial College, 2016

Distinguished Service Award, Kansas Bar Association, 2016

Community Outreach and Education Award, Kansas District Judges Association, 2016

Warren W. Shaw Distinguished Service Award, Topeka Bar Association, 2016

Burnham "Hod" Greeley Award, American Bar Association, 2015

Kansas Bar Association, Outstanding Service Award, 2014

National Judicial College, Special Recognition, 15 years of Excellence in Judicial Education, 2014

Kay McFarland Award, Women Attorneys Association of Topeka, 2013

Earl E. O’Connor Inn of Court, Program Award, 2013

MAKERS of KC, Local Women Who Make KC, KCPT, 2013

Special Life-Time Membership Award, Kansas Municipal Judges Association, 2012

Woman of Influence Award, Overland Park, 2010

Justinian Award for Professional Excellence, Johnson County Bar Association, 2006

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, National Public Safety Award, 2004

Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Public Service Award, 2003

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Kansas Public Service Award, 2003

Chris Award of Excellence, “A Wrong of Passage,” 2002

Silver and Bronze Cindy Award, “A Wrong of Passage,” 2002

Bronze Telly Award, “A Wrong of Passage,” 2002

The Communicator Award, “A Wrong of Passage,” 2002

M. Barbara Award for Outstanding Contributions to Judicial Education in Kansas, 2000

Distinguished Graduate, Shawnee Mission North High School, 1997

BIll Koch Community Safety Award, work on peer mediation program at Shawnee Mission North High School, 1995

Public Service Award, City Attorneys Association of Kansas, 1988, 1991, 1992


Community, civic, and charitable activities

Past board member, United Community Services, Safehome, and Johnson County Drug and Alcoholism Council

Secretary, 10th Judicial District Nominating Commission

Co-founder, Johnson County Stop Underage Drinking Project Inc.

  • Annual scholarship named in her honor


Legal writing

Co-author, "Enhancing Justice Reducing Bias," American Bar Association, 2017

White paper, "Collegiality," Council of Chief Judges of State Courts of Appeal, 2019


Additional information

She and her husband of over 40 years have three children and one grandchild.

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