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Kansas Supreme Court Justice Johnson to retire in September

Published: Jul. 10, 2019 at 10:45 AM CDT
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A Kansas Supreme Court justice whose votes in death penalty cases made him a political target plans to retire from the bench Sept. 8.

The decision announced Wednesday by Justice Lee Johnson will give Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly her first appointment to the seven-member high court. It will not require Kansas Senate confirmation.

Johnson was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2007 by Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius after serving six years on the state Court of Appeals.

He and other justices drew criticism for overturning death sentences in several capital murder cases.

In 2014, a group formed by victims' friends and family sought to oust Johnson in a statewide yes-or-no vote on whether he would stay on the court. The vote to retain him was less than 53 percent.

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7/10/2019 10:26:50 AM (GMT -5:00)

 Governor’s statement on Justice Johnson’s retirement:

 
"Justice Lee Johnson has been a dedicated and distinguished public servant, first in Sumner County and then for 18 years on the bench in Kansas, to include 12 years on the Kansas Supreme Court,” Kelly said. “I want to thank him for his service to the state and wish him the best in his well-deserved retirement." 
 
The process to fill the vacancy will begin with the Supreme Court Nominating Commission, which will submit the names of three qualified individuals to the governor. The governor interviews the candidates and makes the appointment. Supreme Court justices stand for retention every six years.

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