TOPEKA — Thirteen judges and lawyers have applied to become the next state Supreme Court justice.
The selection process is moving forward amid efforts to change the way justices are selected.
Among the applicants are lawyers Steven P. Smith of Wichita and Jeffery L. Carmichael of Valley Center and 18th District Judge Robb W. Rumsey, of Wichita. They seek to replace former Chief Justice Robert E. Davis, who died last month shortly after he retired.
The nine-member Supreme Court nominating committee will interview applicants Sept. 27 and 28, then submit three names to Gov. Mark Parkinson, who will make a final selection.
A legal challenge filed in federal court last week is attempting to block the nomination of a new justice.
The lawsuit seeks to change the way the Kansas Constitution allows appointment of justices by the governor, following recommendations of a nominating committee.
Parkinson defended the current selection method Wednesday, saying it had resulted in excellent judges.
"When you look at the quality of bench that we have, both at the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, the only conclusion I can reach is that the system is working," he said.
Kansas is the only state where attorneys, nominated by attorneys, hold a majority on the selection committee.
The nominating committee is made up of four non-lawyer commissioners who are appointed by the governor and five attorneys, including the chair, who are elected by lawyers.
The four plaintiffs in the lawsuit maintain that having a majority of the nominating committee elected by a select group of people cuts voters out of selecting justices on the Supreme Court. The lawsuit was brought by Bob Dool and Thomas Schermuly of Wichita, Julie Brown of Olathe and Donald Rosenow of Clay Center.
Twelve other states — including Oklahoma, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa — use the nomination process, but attorneys don't make up a majority of the nominating committee.
In 22 states, judges are chosen by voters.
In 13 states, the governor nominates the judge. The nomination is confirmed by one or more chambers of the Legislature.
In South Carolina and Virginia, the Legislature appoints judges.
The other applicants for the court vacancy are Fifth District Judge Merlin G. Wheeler, Emporia; Overland Park Municipal Judge Karen Arnold-Burger; Finney County District Judge Robert J. Frederick; 11th Judicial District Judge Jeffry L. Jack; Stevens County District Judge Kim R. Schroeder; Court of Appeals Justices Michael B. Buser, Nancy L. Caplinger and Thomas E. Malone; and lawyers Cynthia F. Grimes, Lawrence; and Donald D. Jarrett, Leawood.