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Kansas Courts and the Rule of Law2022-08-18T13:59:49-05:00

Kansas Courts and the Rule of Law

About this Collection

The role of the Kansas Courts is to guarantee the “rule of law” to every citizen, regardless of wealth or position of power.  The decision-making of the appellate courts is seen only through written opinions. Interviews with former Supreme Court Justices, judges and others involved in the court system will illuminate this indispensable and often misunderstood part of the policy process.

Interview with Justice Ed Larson by Richard Ross, November 4, 2022

Interviewed by Ross Richard
This interview of longtime Kansas lawyer and jurist, the Honorable Ed Larson, gives a clear understanding of the workings of both Kansas Court of Appeals and the Kansas Supreme Court. Joining the appellate court in 1987 as a general practice lawyer exposed him to many more criminal cases than he had seen in his practice in Hays. He liked the court's practice of traveling around the state for hearings. Larson believed that solving the problems of individuals was the most important work they did, although there were many high-profile cases such as the sale of Blue Cross Show MoreBlue Shield to an out-state company. Larson is a supporter of merit selection for judges and credits the availability of the retirement system for judges with allowing judges to retire with dignity and benefits. Show Less
Chief Justice Lawton Nuss

Interview of Lawton Nuss, July 27, 2022

Interviewed by Richard Ross
Retired Chief Justice Lawton Nuss describes his attempts to be appointed to the Court of Appeals (he was not) and to the Supreme Court. Nuss served as Acting Chief during the illness of Chief Justice Davis. After becoming Chief Justice in 2010 he became the chief spokesman and administrator for the entire judicial branch of nearly 1600 employees and 250 judges. In 2014-15 he appointed a Court Budget Advisory committee to help resolve an eight million dollar budget shortfall. He discussed at length the legislative reaction to the Gannon v State school finance case which was Show Morefiled in 2010 and not finally resolved until 2019. Nuss describes his work with the conservative leadership in the state legislature, and a conservative governor, and their attempts to gain more control over the courts. He dealt with budget shortfalls that resulted in closing the courts; attempts to elect rather than appoint judges; and threats to change the role of the courts in the constitution. Nuss was a vigorous defender of the judicial system's independence against legislative interference. He cited the Supreme Court’s Solomon case which essentially answered the question, "‘Should the judicial branch have to give away some of its power granted directly by the people in their Constitution in order to get funding from the legislature.” The court's decisions on school finance continued to provoke the legislature during his tenure. Show Less

Interview of Fred Six, December 4, 2021

Interviewed by Richard Ross and Deanell Tacha
This oral history interview of retired Supreme Justice Fred N. Six is the first of a series of interviews of retired justices, judges and court personnel to examine the Kansas judicial branch. In the interview Justice Six recounts his career as Judge of the Court of Appeals and Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court, reviewing changes in procedure that took place during his years on the courts and topics of litigation the courts reviewed. Six's explanation of how the Supreme Court operates is clear and interesting, especially as he discussed the "growing pains" brought about from the Show More"IT Revolution." He described precedent-setting opinions and the process of writing a dissent. A discussion of the medical malpractice issues highlighted the tension between the courts and the legislature when new policy is adopted. After Justice Six left the bench, he was asked to work with the Senate and House Judiciary committees to alter the Merit Selection plan of judges. work which was ongoing until 2011. The interview concludes with him stating that his greatest takeaway from his years of service was the establishment in 1992 of the Lawyers Fund for Client Protection. Show Less

Interview of John Vratil, September 13, 2022

Interviewed by Joan Wagnon and David Heinemann
Senator John Vratil served 14 years in the Kansas Senate, chairing the Judiciary committee 8 of those years and serving as Senate Vice-President for 10 years. Vratil was a leader in the Senate on both education issues as well as judiciary issues. He served on the Judicial Council helping the courts coordinate policy initiatives with the Administration and Legislature. He discusses the change in the power structure of the Senate, from "moderate Republican to Right Wing Conservative." He cites medicaid expansion as one example of a popular issue with the public, but not with the new "right-wing" Show Moreconservative majority. He comments the declining number of lawyers in both the Senate and House may be due to the low salaries. Show Less
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