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TOPEKA — The Supreme Court Nominating Commission today voted on the names of three nominees for Supreme Court justice to send to Gov. Laura Kelly.

A letter from the nominating commission chair will be hand-delivered to the governor’s office during regular business hours Tuesday to formally notify her of the commission’s selection. Its delivery will begin the 60-day timeline the governor has to decide which of the three nominees she will appoint to fill the vacancy created by Justice Carol Beier's September 18 retirement.

The three nominees are:

Judge Kim Cudney

Cudney has been chief judge of the 12th Judicial District since 2006. She previously was in private practice, served as county attorney for Washington County, and worked as a research attorney for U.S. District Chief Judge Patrick Kelly and Kansas Supreme Court Justice Harold Herd. She graduated from Kansas State University and Washburn University School of Law. She lives in Greenleaf.

Judge Melissa Taylor Standridge

Standridge has been a Kansas Court of Appeals judge since February 2008. She previously was chambers counsel to U.S. District Magistrate Judge David Waxse and U.S. District Judge Elmo Hunter and a lawyer with the Shook, Hardy, and Bacon law firm. She graduated from the University of Kansas and the University of MIssouri-Kansas City School of Law. She lives in Leawood.

Kristen Wheeler

Wheeler has been law clerk for U.S. District Judge Thomas Marten since 2018. She previously was in private practice at Robinson Law Firm and Morris, Laing, Evans, Brock and Kennedy. She graduated from the University of Kansas and Washburn University School of Law. She lives in Wichita.

Public interviews

The commission interviewed 11 applicants in the Kansas Judicial Center in Topeka before narrowing the list of nominees to three through successive rounds of voting. All interviews and voting were open to the public and livestreamed on YouTube.

Merit selection process

Supreme Court justices are appointed through a merit-based nomination process that Kansans voted to add to the Kansas Constitution in 1958.

When there is a vacancy on the court, the Supreme Court Nominating Commission has 60 days from the date the vacancy occurs to submit names of three qualified nominees to the governor.

After receiving the list of nominees, the governor has 60 days to appoint one of them to the court.

The commission announces when it is accepting nominations, and it releases the names of who is being considered based on the nominations received.

The commission reviews the nominees' qualifications and conducts public interviews of the nominees. Through this process, the commission decides which three nominees to recommend to the governor.

Eligibility requirements

To be eligible, a nominee must be: 

  • at least 30 years old; and

  • 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. 

Selection criteria

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

  • legal and judicial experience;

  • educational background;

  • character and ethics;

  • temperament;

  • service to the community;

  • impartiality; and

  • respect of colleagues.

Code of judicial conduct

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.

Retention elections

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.

Supreme Court Nominating Commission

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.

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