How Judges Are Selected
In 1978, the voters of Johnson County adopted the merit selection process for choosing the judges for the Johnson County District Court. This process has resulted in judicial candidates with extensive professional experience in the Constitution of the United States and of Kansas, and in the laws that apply to Johnson County citizens and businesses.
In the merit selection process, when a vacancy in our courts occurs, the Judicial Nominating Commission notifies all licensed attorneys and invites applications. The Commission consists of seven attorneys elected by their peers and seven non-lawyers citizens appointed by the elected Johnson County Commissioners.
The Commission reviews all applications, contacts references, interviews the applicants, and in an open and public meeting, evaluates and discussed the experience, qualifications, temperament and skills of each applicant and, finally, recommends the best three candidates for final consideration by the Governor. The three names are submitted to the Governor, who traditionally conducts his or her own interview and background check and then appoints one of the three to fill the vacancy. At the next general election and every four years thereafter, that new judge’s name must appear on the ballot for voters to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for retention.
A new process for evaluating Kansas judges and justices has been created to help make voters more knowledgeable about their effectiveness and to help judges improve their performance. The Kansas Commission on Judicial Performance, which consists of six non-lawyers and six others who can be lawyers or current or retired judges or justices, has developed a series of survey questionnaires that will be completed by a wide range of of people who have directly observed a judge or justice, including law enforcement officers, attorneys and court workers. The questionnaires will be tabulated by the Commission and used to write an evaluation of all Kansas judges. Before each election the evaluations of judges who are up for retention will be made public and released through the media and other sources. These evaluations will help make the public more aware of the performance of individual judges. The Commission's membership, rules and survey questionnaires can be viewed on their website: http://kansasjudicialperformance.org/question.shtml.