What “retention’ means for Kansas judges, how you can learn more

GIRARD/TOPEKA, Kan. – When it comes to election day many people immediately think of the issues on the ballot and the politicians running for office. But there’s another aspect in Kansas with judges that are up for ‘retention’.

When it comes to judges in most places in Kansas, they’re not elected. Most places, includes the 11th Judicial District right here in southeast Kansas. District 11 Court Administrator Mac Young says “In the 11th Judicial District it’s a nonpartisan merit selection and so, once a judge is assigned to the bench then they go up for what’s called retention vote every four years.”

There are ways to research a judge that’s up for retention, however COVID concerns may impact where you can do that. Young says “So long as the building is open the public can come in and access those computers, they can search court cases by a judge’s name, and that would bring up all the cases that was assigned to that judge, and ultimately find out the disposition of those cases.”

If a building is closed to the public, there are online resources available as well and we’ll have those included below.

On your ballot this year you’ll also see the name of Karen Arnold-Burger, she’s the Chief Judge with the Kansas Court of appeals and she’s up for retention. Judge Arnold-Burger says even though on most ballots judges are at the very end, it’s important to read the entire ballot and make sure you know about the judges on that list. “It’s just like anything, if you want a surgeon or a doctor, you ask around and you ask professionals, you ask other doctors who would be a good surgeon, the same thing with judges, ask lawyers in your community that you know or ask others who have appeared in front of them to see what they say.”

You can click here for 2020 Judicial Evaluations Survey conducted by the Johnson County Bar Association.

You can click here for bios on judges. You can also click here for Supreme Court judge bios.

Clicking here will take you to a 2016 survey of appellate judges conducted by an independent group.

This link will take you to a search option – all you have to do is type the last name of the judge in the search bar and find any opinion written by a judge from published and unpublished cases.

And if you click here, you can learn more about the role of the judicial branch and how to be an informed voter.