A Unified Court
Kansas courts are unified in the judicial branch. In 1972, voters added to the Kansas Constitution an amendment that vests judicial power in a single court system, giving the Supreme Court general administrative authority over all courts in Kansas.
Supreme Court decisions set binding legal precedent that lower courts must follow. The court hears cases first heard by the Court of Appeals, direct appeals from district courts in the most serious criminal cases, and in cases in which a statute has been declared unconstitutional. It may review cases decided by the Court of Appeals, and it may transfer cases from that court to the Supreme Court. It also has original jurisdiction in several types of cases.
Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeals is an intermediate appellate court that hears appeals from districts courts in civil or criminal cases, except those that may be appealed directly to the Supreme Court. It also hears appeals of decisions from administrative agencies, such as the Kansas Corporation Commission, the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals, and the Kansas Workers Compensation Appeals Board. Members sit in three-judge panels at locations throughout the state.
District courts are trial courts, with general original jurisdiction over all criminal and civil cases, including divorce and domestic relations, damage suits, probate and estate administration, guardianships, conservatorships, care of the mentally ill, juvenile matters, and small claims. This is where criminal and civil jury trials take place.
Municipal courts, or city courts, deal with violations of city ordinances committed within city limits. Cases usually involve traffic and other minor offenses. A person charged with an offense in municipal court may be represented by a lawyer. The judge hears cases without a jury. Anyone convicted in municipal court may appeal to the district court of the county where the municipal court is located.
The Supreme Court, by constitutional mandate, has general administrative authority over all courts in Kansas. The Office of Judicial Administration implements Supreme Court rules and policies and state statutes as they apply to the operation of the judicial branch. A host of boards, committees, and commissions advise the Supreme Court on matters related to the administration of justice.
The clerk of the appellate courts is a constitutional officer and is responsible for case processing, setting dockets, and retaining and managing records for the appellate courts. The clerk may be assigned other duties that require an in-depth understanding of procedures, rules, and responsibilities of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.
The Appellate Reporter of the Supreme Court is a constitutional officer and, by statute, also serves as reporter for the Court of Appeals. This position is generally referred to as the reporter of decisions. The reporter’s primary function is to publish the opinions that each court has designated for inclusion in the Kansas Reports or the Kansas Court of Appeals Reports.