June 13, 2024

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Ethics-Challenged Chief Justice Lectures Troops on Ethics

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The Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice, Lawton Nuss, lectured about 35 military legal specialists on ethics via video conference. The troops, watching from Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, listened to a Nuss-led discussion on ethics as part of a continuing legal education conference for military law practitioners.

Chief Justice Lawton Nuss

Nuss’s appearance was at the request of Maj. Gen. Victor Braden. The Chief Justice told the service personnel to adhere to their oaths to support the constitution. Nuss is a Marine Corps veteran, and he’s also no stranger to ethical issues.

He was publicly disciplined by the Commission on Judicial Qualifications for ethics violations in 2006. That year, the Justice met with then Kansas Senate President Steve Morris and Sen. Pete Brungardt for lunch. The trio discussed spending recommendations of a House bill crafted in response to the Court’s 2005 ruling that school funding was unconstitutional. Nuss even brought with him a spreadsheet he had prepared of school financing alternatives, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

 

The Justice later admitted the conversation took place, apologized, and recused himself from hearing that school finance case–a precursor to the school funding case before the Court today. The Commission on Judicial Qualifications found that Nuss violated the judicial code of conduct by engaging in an independent investigation of a pending case, meeting improperly with nonparties to the case, and bringing an appearance of impropriety to the high court.

At the time, the Supreme Court spokesperson Ron Keefover called the luncheon a “fact-finding, misguided, perhaps, effort by a member of the court.”

It marked the first time in history that the Commission on Judicial Qualifications disciplined a Supreme Court Justice. Appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Bill Graves in 2002, Nuss was elevated to Chief Justice in 2010.

 

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