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A 'judge's judge' steps down

Tuesday's retirement of Kansas Chief Justice Robert Davis ensures that Gov. Mark Parkinson will have at least one chance to name a member of the state's highest court before the governorship changes hands in January. Davis, appointed in 1993 by Gov. Joan Finney, has been regarded as a fair-minded, thoughtful and gentlemanly member of the court. "He's a judge's judge," one law professor told The Eagle editorial board when Davis was up for retention in 2006. The departure of Davis, who had been chief justice since January 2009, elevates Lawton Nuss to the top job, as it highlights how much the seven-member court has changed in the past decade. Nuss and Justice Marla Luckert were appointed to the court by Gov. Bill Graves; four others were appointed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Like his predecessors, Parkinson will choose from a list of three candidates forwarded to him by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission, composed of five attorneys and four non-attorneys. But will that system last? Sam Brownback, likely the state's next governor, long has railed against "activist judges," seemingly aligning him with those calling for the Kansas Constitution to be amended to require Senate confirmation of appellate court nominations.