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Kansas Court of Appeals

Unlike the other courts, the Kansas Court of Appeals was not originally founded in the Kansas Constitution. It was first established in 1895 as the Kansas Courts of Appeal by a temporary legislative act, which expired in 1901, to help with the vast number of pending cases before the Kansas Supreme Court.

The court of appeals was reestablished by legislation in 1977 as a seven-member intermediate appellate court. It was expanded to 10 members in 1987 and has 14 members today.

The Kansas Court of Appeals reviews cases that have already been tried in lower courts. The court hears all appeals from orders of the Kansas Corporation Commission and all appeals from district courts in both civil and criminal cases, except those that may be appealed directly to the Kansas Supreme Court. It also has jurisdiction over original actions in habeas corpus (an order to bring a jailed person before a judge or court to find out if that person has been legally imprisoned).

Like the Kansas Supreme Court justices, the court of appeals judges ordinarily do not conduct trials but rather decide an appealed case by reading the record of the trial and written briefs filed by the parties and hearing oral arguments of lawyers. The judges research and review the law involved in a case and then write an opinion, which is usually published in bound volumes. The court announces its decisions by filing them with the Office of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts.

Although the court may hear appeals en banc, which means by all 14 of its judges, usually the members of the court of appeals sit in panels of three at locations throughout the state, including the primary courtroom in the Kansas Judicial Center in Topeka. Each panel typically hears appeals over one two-day period each month.

Court of Appeals Judges

Kansas statutes require that anyone selected as a judge of the Kansas Court of Appeals possess the qualifications prescribed by law for justices of the Kansas Supreme Court: judges must be admitted to practice law in the state of Kansas and have engaged in the active and continuous practice of law, as a lawyer, judge of a court of record or any court in this state, full-time teacher of law in an accredited law school or any combination thereof for a period of at least 10 years prior to the date of appointment as judge. Judges also must be at least 30 years old.

Prior to July 1, 2013, court of appeals judges were selected in the same manner as supreme court justices, with the governor appointing one of three qualified candidates provided by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. Legislation effective July 1, 2013, changed the procedure for selection, and now candidates for appointment to the court of appeals apply to and are selected by the governor. Such appointment by the governor requires confirmation by a majority vote of the Senate. Court of appeals judges serve four-year terms and are subject to retention by public vote for each successive four-year term.

One court of appeals judge serves as chief judge, who among other administrative duties determines the number of judicial panels and makes assignments of judges among such panels. The chief judge may sit as a member of a panel and preside over such panel. When the chief judge is not a member of a hearing panel, the chief judge appoints a member of the panel to preside.

Prior to legislation passed in 2014, the Kansas Supreme Court designated the chief judge. Effective January 1, 2016, judges of the court of appeals elect a judge of the court of appeals in a procedure determined by that court to serve as chief judge.

Kansas Judicial Center image
The primary Court of Appeals courtroom is located in the Kansas Judicial Center
Photo by Todd Caywood
Court of Appeals courtroom image
Kansas Court of Appeals courtroom in the Kansas Judicial Center
Photo by Todd Caywood