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State of Kansas

History of Reform Efforts: Kansas

Formal Changes Since Inception

1861
Judges of the supreme court elected by the people to six-year terms. Judges elected by the people to four-year terms.

1895
Court of appeals created to assist with case delays; would expire in 1901. Judges elected by the people to four-year, nonrenewable terms.

1958
Constitutional amendment provides for merit selection of supreme court justices. Candidates are initially screened by the supreme court nominating commission, which recommends three candidates to the governor. Justices stand for retention every six years.

1972
Constitutional amendment provides the option of merit selection of district court judges. To adopt merit selection, a petition signed by 5% of the electors of that district must be submitted to the secretary of state. A merit selection proposition is then placed on the ballot in the next general election. The proposition must be passed a majority of voters in that district. District court judges chosen through merit selection stand for retention at the next general election after at least one year in office. Upon retention, they serve four-year terms.

1977
The court of appeals is re-established pursuant to statute, with judges chosen through merit selection. Judges stand for retention at the next general election after at least one-year in office. Upon retention, they serve four-year terms. For more detailed information on the history of the Kansas judiciary, see Jeffrey D. Jackson, "The Selection of Judges in Kansas: A Comparison of Systems," 69 J. Ka. Bar. Assn. 32 (Jan. 2000) and Stacie L. Sanders, "Kissing Babies, Shaking Hands, and Campaign Contributions: Is This the Proper Role for the Kansas Judiciary?", 34 Washburn L. J. 573 (1995).

2006
The Kansas legislature created the Commission on Judicial Performance to evaluate judges' performance. Evaluations are intended to promote judicial self-improvement and to inform voters regarding judges standing for retention.