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Records of the Appellate Courts

Creator: Kansas. Supreme Court

Date: 1859 - [ongoing]

Level of Description: Coll./Record Group

Material Type: Government record

Call Number: Unavailable

Unit ID: 214663

Space Required/Quantity: [Not stated]

Title (Main title): Records of the Appellate Courts

Administrative History

Administrative History:

The first organized government in the territory that is now Kansas was created by an act of Congress on May 30, 1854. The act created a supreme court, composed of a chief justice and two justices appointed by the president for terms of four years each. Any two of the justices were sufficient to constitute a quorum, and the supreme court was directed to hold sessions at the seat of territorial government at least once a year. The first session of the Territorial Supreme Court was held at the Shawnee Manual Labor School on July 30, 1855.

The members of the Territorial Supreme Court performed dual roles. The territory was divided into three judicial districts and each of the justices of the Supreme Court also served as a judge of a district court. Final judgment of the district courts were reviewable in the Supreme Court. In some cases, a further appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was available.

When Kansas became a state, the constitution created a Supreme Court consisting of one chief justice and two associate justices elected from the state at large for six-year terms. The population of Kansas at that time was slightly more than 100,000. By 1885, the population increased to more than 1.2 million. The three-justice Supreme Court, adequate at the beginning of statehood, was hopelessly inadequate to serve the needs of the growing state. The legislature proposed an amendment to the constitution to increase the number of justices immediately to five and later to seven; however, the voters did not pass the amendment.

Two years later, the legislature tried another approach. They authorized the governor (with the consent of the Senate) to appoint three citizens "of high character for legal learning and personal worth" as commissioners of the Supreme Court to help with the tremendous number of pending cases. The commissioners were appointed for terms of three years with no provision for reappointment. Their purpose was clearly to help out temporarily until the number of justices could be increased. In 1889, the legislature again proposed a constitutional amendment to provide seven justices. Once again the proposal was defeated in the 1890 election. The legislature then extended the terms of the commissioners until 1893.

Between 1887 and 1893, the commissioners prepared about the same number of opinions as did the Supreme Court, thus doubling the number of cases that could have been handled by the court alone. But even then, delays were great with some cases waiting three years before a decision was reached. In 1895, the legislature dealt with the problem by creating the Kansas Courts of Appeal. However, this also was a temporary means of assistance, as the act that created the Courts of Appeal also provided that the courts should expire in 1901.

Meanwhile, and finally, in 1900, a constitutional amendment was approved by voters to increase the number of justices to seven, the same number as today. Justices sat in two divisions, with three justices making a quorum in either division. In cases where the entire Court was ordered to hear a case, four justices made a quorum. The justices were still elected for six-year terms with the senior justice, according to years served, being the chief justice. In 1903 new rules were adopted which did away with the separate divisions, and from that time cases were heard by the entire court.

In 1958, another constitutional amendment changed the selection of justices from a partisan election to an appointment process. Under the plan adopted in 1958, there is an initial screening of candidates by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. The commission nominates three persons for appointment by the governor. The governor makes the appointment, and that justice stands for retention elections every six years. This process remains in effect for Supreme Court justices.

In 2013 the selection process for Court of Appeals judges was changed by statute: Judges are now chosen by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. The selection process for members of the Supreme Court was not changed.

The Court of Appeals was re-established in 1977 as a seven-member intermediate appellate court. Between 1901 and 1977, the Supreme Court assumed the duties of the original Court of Appeals. It was expanded to 10 members in 1987 and has 13 members today. Persons who lose their appeal at the Court of Appeals level may petition the Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals decision, but the justices are not required to do so.

Scope and Content

Scope and content:

This collection contains the records of the Appellate Courts. The records document the actions of the Court for all appeals cases in the state of Kansas. The collection consists primarily of case files and briefs, organized chronologically by case number. Case files contain all original legal documents, correspondence, and orders for the individual cases. Briefs contain booklets entitled Brief of Appellant or Brief of the Appellee, summarizing the nature of the case and the arguments from either side.

In addition to these files, the collection contains volumes of docket entries and motions for cases appearing before the court, summarizing all legal action taken regarding each case. Also included are several stay bonds and cost bond volumes documenting the responsible parties liable for the trial expenses, as well as exhibits used in particular cases.

Because the Appellate Court was disbanded and under the control of the Kansas Supreme Court between 1901 and 1977, researchers may wish to consider viewing the records of the Supreme Court as well.


No Locators Identified

Related Records or Collections

Indexes: For information about how to find Kansas Appellate Court case files, see our web page: Kansas Appellate Court case file searches.

Related materials: Records of the Kansas Supreme Court


Finding Aid Bibliography: Kansas Judicial Branch. "History of the Appellate Courts." http://www.kscourts.org/kansas-courts/general-information/history.asp (accessed November 10, 2008), updated 2014 by KSHS staff.

Index Terms


    Kansas. Court of Appeals -- History
    Kansas. Court of Appeals -- Records and correspondence
    Kansas. Supreme Court -- History
    Kansas. Supreme Court -- Records and correspondence
    Appellate courts -- Kansas
    Appellate procedure -- Kansas
    Court records -- Kansas
    Legal documents -- Kansas

Creators and Contributors

Agency Classification:

    Kansas State Agencies. Appellate Courts.
    Kansas State Agencies. Appellate Courts. Kansas Supreme Court.