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Chief Justice Lawton NussTOPEKA―Chief Justice Lawton Nuss announced today that he will retire from the Supreme Court effective December 17, 2019.

Nuss has served as a justice on the Supreme Court since 2002 and as chief justice since 2010.

"I consider my service on the Supreme Court to be the greatest privilege of my 37-year legal career," Nuss said. "It has given me the honor of working with the nearly two thousand dedicated people―judges and employees alike―of the judicial branch of government. I am extremely proud of what all these good folks have accomplished for their fellow Kansans."

Nuss was appointed to the Supreme Court by former Governor Bill Graves. At the time of his appointment, Nuss had practiced law in Salina for 20 years. He graduated from the University of Kansas School of Law after serving in the United States Marine Corps.

Justice Marla Luckert, who is next in seniority on the court, said Nuss has been an outstanding leader of the judicial branch the last 10 years.

"During his tenure as chief justice, our state courts have undergone tremendous change. We have steadily worked on modernizing how we manage cases with an eye toward more efficient service to the people of Kansas," Luckert said. "At the same time, Chief Justice Nuss has earnestly pursued funding levels that will allow us to bring employee pay to market rates and to offer competitive pay for judges, both of which are critical to the effective delivery of justice."

Nuss's retirement announcement comes just two weeks after his colleague, Justice Lee Johnson, announced he will retire September 8. That announcement was made July 10.

Supreme Court vacancies are filled using a merit-based nomination process that Kansans voted to add to the Kansas Constitution in 1958.

When there is a vacancy on the bench, the Supreme Court Nominating Commission reviews applications and conducts public interviews of nominees. The commission narrows the nominee pool to three names that it sends to the governor. The governor chooses one nominee to appoint.

To be eligible, a nominee must be:

  • at least 30 years old;

  • a lawyer admitted to practice in Kansas and engaged in the practice of law for at least 10 years, whether as a lawyer, judge, or full-time teacher at an accredited law school.

The Supreme Court Nominating Commission has nine members. There is one lawyer and one nonlawyer from each of the state’s four congressional districts, plus one lawyer who serves as chairperson. Nonlawyers are appointed by the governor. Lawyers are elected by other lawyers within their congressional districts. The chairperson is elected by lawyers statewide.

When the Supreme Court Nominating Commission reviews nominees for justice, they look at the person’s:

  • legal and judicial experience

  • educational background

  • character and ethics

  • temperament

  • service to the community

  • impartiality

  • respect of colleagues

Justices must follow the law and not be influenced by politics, special interest groups, public opinion, or their own personal beliefs. Justices demonstrate their accountability by following a Code of Judicial Conduct that establishes standards of ethical behavior. They also take an oath of office that includes swearing to support, protect, and defend the U.S. Constitution and Kansas Constitution.

After a new justice serves one year on the court, he or she must stand for a retention vote in the next general election to remain in the position. If retained, the justice serves a six-year term.

Chief Justice Nuss' July 26, 2019, letter to Gov. Laura Kelly.

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