TOPEKA, Kansas — Gov. Laura Kelly appointed lawyer Keynen “KJ” Wall to the Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Wall will fill the seat of former Justice Lawton Nuss, who retired in December after more than nine years leading the court as chief justice. It’s Kelly’s second appointment to the state’s highest court since she took office.
Wall, a 49-year-old from Lawrence, was chosen because of his experience and demeanor, Kelly said.
“KJ has seen the issues affecting our health care system and has appeared before courts across the state,” she said during a news conference.
Wall is a partner at the Forbes Law Group in Overland Park, and specializes in health care litigation — representing rural hospitals, community mental health centers and behavioral health providers.
The Lawrence resident grew up in Scott City in rural western Kansas, later graduating from Kansas State University in 1993 and the University of Kansas School of Law in 2001.
He clerked for U.S. District Court Judge John W. Lungstrum and worked as a lawyer in Colorado and Minnesota before serving as a Deputy General Counsel at the Kansas Supreme Court from 2013 to 2015.
Wall credited Nuss and Lungstrum with mentoring him throughout his career.
“I was always amazed at their dedication to deciding every case based on its merits, without consideration or influence from any outside factors,” he said. “I fully intend to do the same.”
Seventeen people applied for the vacant Supreme Court seat. The Supreme Court Nominating Commission submits three nominees to the governor, who then has 60 days to appoint one of the nominees.
After new justices’ first year in office, the public votes in the next general election on whether to keep them on the court. If justices are retained, they face public votes every six years.
Kelly’s other state Supreme Court appointment, Justice Evelyn Wilson, faced criticism from conservative lawmakers and lobbyist groups over her husband’s campaign contributions to abortion rights groups.
Nomin Ujiyediin reports on criminal justice and social welfare for KCUR and the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @NominUJ.
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