Kansas Supreme Court Justice Carol A. Beier will retire effective Sept. 18.
Beier, 61, revealed in a news release Friday that she plans to leave the seat she has held since being appointed in September 2003 by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
Beier said she will always be grateful for the opportunities she have been given to spend so much of her legal career serving her home state and its citizens.
"Twenty years and thousands of cases since my children helped me put on my robe for the first time, I will pack it away with pride,“ she said. ”This is possible because I can bear personal witness to the good faith and daily striving of our Kansas courts to be and remain fair and impartial guardians of the rule of law and the rights of all."
Supreme Court Chief Justice Marla Luckert voiced praise for Beier, saying in Friday’s news release that court employees speak highly of her leadership, commitment to transparency and concern for them.
“Most memorable is her dedication to the rule of law,” Luckert said. “She set aside her personal opinions to embrace the rule of law knowing some of her decisions would be unpopular. She will be greatly missed, and we wish her and her family well.”
Beier’s replacement will become the third justice appointed to the seven-member high court by Gov. Laura Kelly.
Kelly’s previous appointments were Justice Evelyn Wilson and K.J. Wall, who has not yet been sworn in.
The other members of the seven-person high court are Luckert, who was appointed by Gov. Bill Graves; Eric Rosen and Dan Biles, each appointed by Sebelius; and Caleb Stegall, appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback.
Beier is the second-longest tenured member of the Supreme Court, where Luckert has served the longest.
Beier was appointed to the high court after three years on the Kansas Court of Appeals, to which she was appointed by Graves in 2000.
After serving one year, each new member of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals must stand for a retention vote in the next general election to keep his or her seat. If retained, the justice serves a six-year term.
Kansas voters retained Beier on the high court three times, in 2004, 2010 and 2016. She was also retained in 2002 while serving on the Court of Appeals.
Beier received 63% of the vote to win retention in 2010 after the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life unsuccessfully mounted a “Fire Beier” campaign aimed at bringing about her removal over her opinions on abortion matters before the court.
Luckert said Beier leaves an outstanding legacy as an appellate jurist with a steadfast dedication to the rule of law who wrote her opinions with the reader in mind.
“Her writing is always clear and easily understood, eloquent, usually accented by a memorable and clever phrase, and reflects principled reasoning,” Luckert said. “Attorneys will recall her piercing questions, quick wit, sharp intellect and fairness and impartiality.”
Beier was born in Kansas City, Kan. Before becoming a judge, she was a partner at Foulston & Siefkin law firm in Wichita and taught at the University of Kansas School of Law.
After receiving her law degree in 1985 from the University of Kansas, Beier worked in a private white collar criminal defense practice in Washington, D.C.; as a staff attorney at the National Women's Law Center; and as a clerk for former federal Court of Appeals Judge James K. Logan.
Supreme Court vacancies are filled using a merit-based nomination process Kansans voted to add to the Kansas Constitution in 1958.
The state’s Supreme Court Nominating Commission reviews applications, conducts public interviews of nominees and narrows the pool to three names, which it sends to the governor, who chooses one person to appoint.
To be eligible, candidates must be at least 30 years old and a lawyer who is admitted to practice in Kansas and has been engaged in the practice of law at least 10 years, whether as a lawyer, judge or full-time teacher at an accredited law school.