Former Leavenworth County judge steps down from Kansas Supreme Court
Topeka — Citing poor health, Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert E. Davis has resigned.
Davis’ announcement Tuesday elevates Lawton Nuss to chief justice because he is the most tenured justice on the court, and gives Gov. Mark Parkinson a coveted appointment to the state’s highest court before he leaves office.
Nuss, who has served on the seven-member court since 2002, garnered headlines in 2006 when he was publicly admonished by a state judicial commission over his brief discussion about school finance with two state senators when the Legislature was under a court order to spend more money on education.
The Supreme Court Nominating Commission will provide within 60 days three names to Parkinson to pick from to replace Davis. Parkinson, a Democrat who is not seeking election, has 60 days to fill the position which puts the appointment within his term, which expires in January.
In a letter submitted to Parkinson, Davis, 70, cited medical reasons for his retirement. He has been on medical leave this spring and summer, but continued to work on the court’s administrative matters. Ron Keefover, a spokesman for the court, declined to provide any more details on Davis’ condition.
“I have truly loved my judicial career in this dedicated court system, and will miss working with the district courts and with my colleagues on the Kansas Supreme Court, whose members without doubt comprise one of the best appellate courts in the country,” said Davis.
Davis had a wide-ranging legal career. He had been a member of the Supreme Court since 1993, appointed by former Gov. Joan Finney, a Democrat. He had been chief justice since January 2009. He had served eight years on the Kansas Court of Appeals and before that was a district judge in Leavenworth County. He also had served as Leavenworth County attorney and in private practice.
He served as an attorney in the Army, including as trial counsel in Korea, and government appellate counsel in Washington, D.C. He received his law degree from Georgetown University Law School.
Justice Nuss said Davis will be missed on the court.
“He has been the gentlemen’s gentleman throughout his career. I have never met a more gracious and humble person, who also is as skilled and learned in the law as Chief Justice Davis,” Nuss said.
Parkinson also praised Davis, saying, “He has been a true advocate for the community, a respected colleague and a good friend. We will miss his leadership on the Court, but understand that he must now devote his full attention to his health. On behalf of all Kansans, we send our most sincere gratitude for his service as well as our thoughts and prayers for his good health.”
Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, also thanked Davis “for his many years of service to the bench and the people of Kansas.”
The make-up of the court now features two justices, Nuss and Marla Luckert, appointed by former Gov. Bill Graves, a Republican, and four appointed by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat. Those are Carol Beier, Dan Biles, Lee Johnson and Eric Rosen.
Now Parkinson, who is also an attorney, will leave his imprint on the court.