Kansas Supreme Court Vacancy: list down to three

This post originally appeared at The Kansas Progress, before this blog went live.

November 14th. There has been a lot of speculation recently about Governor Kathleen Sebelius’ future as a member of the Obama Cabinet. However, before she leaves us, Sebelius will be naming Chief Justice Kay McFarland’s successor to the Kansas Supreme Court. In doing so, she has an opportunity to shift the court decidedly to the left – with apparently no electoral future here in Kansas, it is not clear that there is any reason she won’t do so.

For that reason, it rather looks like Overland Park Attorney, Dan Biles, is the favorite for the Supreme Court vacancy. The eight applicants for the position have been described on this blog, and on November 14th the nominating commission narrowed the list to Biles (who represented the State Board of Education in the controversial Montoy school funding case), Douglas County Chief Judge Robert W. Fairchild and Court of Appeals Judge Tom Malone.

Both Fairchild and Malone are plausible-looking candidates, however Sebelius has twice had the opportunity to name Fairchild to the Court and has declined to do so – it is hard to see why she would choose differently on this third occasion. Malone has been nominated once before, and was also passed over by Sebelius. Of the three candidates he is the lowest profile, having spent many years as a trial judge before Sebelius elevated him to the Court of Appeals.

Sebelius must make her decision between now and January 13th.

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