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Judge Steve Leben grew up in El Dorado and earned journalism and law degrees from the University of Kansas. After 11 years in private practice, he was a Johnson County district judge for nearly 14 years before being named to the Court of Appeals. He is a past president of the American Judges Association and speaks to judges nationally on how to improve the fairness of America’s courts.


Current term

January 2017-January 2021

Appointed to the court in 2007 by Governor Kathleen Sebelius


Judicial experience

2007-present, judge, Court of Appeals

1993-2007, district judge, Johnson County, 10th Judicial District


Previous professional experience

1982-88, attorney, Stinson, Mag & Fizzell (now Stinson LLP)

1988-93, attorney, solo practice

1979, press secretary, U.S. Rep. Bob Whittaker

2007-present, part-time lecturer, University of Kansas School of Law

2002, adjunct professor, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law



University of Kansas School of Law, J.D., 1982

  • Associate editor, Kansas Law Review

  • Order of the Coif graduate

University of Kansas, B.S. with distinction, journalism, 1978

  • KU student body president, 1977

El Dorado High School, El Dorado, Kansas, 1974


Professional memberships and activities

American Bar Association

  • Budget officer, Appellate Judges Conference, Judicial Division, 2018-present

American Judges Association

  • President, 2006-07

  • Editor, Court Review, 1998-2017

Kansas Bar Association

  • Editor, practice manual on Kansas family law

  • Member, Board of Governors, 1993-2000

  • Member, Board of Editors, KBA Journal, 1993-2006

Kansas Justice Commission member, 1997-99

University of Kansas Alumni Association

  • Past president, Kansas City chapter

University of Kansas School of Law Alumni Association

  • Member, Board of Governors, 2006-present

  • President, 2011-14


Awards and honors


  • William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, National Center for State Courts, 2014 (highest award given by the National Center for State Courts to a judge, recognizing work to promote greater procedural fairness in America’s courts)

  • Chief Justice Richard W. Holmes Award of Merit, American Judges Association, 2017 (highest award given by the association for contributions to the administration of justice nationally)

  • Harold V. Froelich Award for Judicial Courage, American Judges Association, 2016 (award recognizes judicial courage in the service of justice)

  • Distinguished Service Award, National Center for State Courts, 2003 (recognized for national contributions to the administration of justice)


  • Robert K. Weary Award, Kansas Bar Foundation, 2019

  • Outstanding Service Award, Kansas Bar Association, 2000

  • Outstanding Young Lawyer in Kansas, 1993

Representative publications


Additional information

Born in Eureka and raised in El Dorado

He and his wife, Dr. Ann Warner, live in Fairway. He has three stepchildren.


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