Sibelius chooses "non-partisan" GOP judge for SC vacancy

Legal News Line Jan. 8, 2007, 8:40am


TOPEKA -- Lee A. Johnson looks like the perfect candidate to heal the political and judicial rifts that have famously turned Kansas into one of the country's most polarized states. A registered Republican known for disdaining partisan politics and rejecting ideological labels, Johnson was first an insurance salesman in the family business and then a lawyer in private practice in rural Caldwell, Kan. He was appointed to the state's Court of Appeals in 2001 and with a recent appointment by Democratic Governor Kathleen Sibelius, will shift to the Supreme Court later in the year. Johnson was one of three candidates presented to Sibelius by a non-partisan nominating committee. Sibelius, herself a moderate who has much cross-over appeal to Republican voters, plumped for Johnson, according to an Associated Press report, because of his experience as a small-town lawyer. Such an attorney, she said, "sees a little bit of everything." Having authored more than 500 Appeals Court decisions, Johnson will replace Justice Donald Allegrucci when his term expires in September. Allegrucci has the reached the court's mandatory retirement age of 70. Johnson is Sibelius's third Kansas Supreme Court pick in the past four years following Carol Beier in 2003 and Eric Rosen in 2005. Johnson claims not to be influenced by party politics, stating, "We are governed by the principal of the rule of law, not the rule of men."

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