Ask most Kansans what they know about our state Supreme Court, and you likely will hear something about the cases we decide. After all, making those decisions is one of our most important duties. But we have many other responsibilities that few Kansans outside of the legal community know about. The people's Constitution grants us "general administrative authority over all courts in this state," a responsibility that includes the entire judicial branch of government and its nearly 1,900 judges and court employees.
One of our other responsibilities is to establish rules for admitting persons to practice law as attorneys in Kansas courts, to supervise their conduct, and to discipline them. This week we announced a significant new rule about attorneys.
The new rule allows attorneys living in Kansas who are spouses of military service members stationed here to temporarily practice law without taking the state-administered uniform bar exam. Those attorneys must first be admitted to practice in other states. Before the court adopted this rule, attorneys who came to our state with their military spouses had to pass our bar exam in order to join the more than 11,000 attorneys licensed to practice law here, even though their stay was not permanent.
My fellow justices and I believe that a person married to a member of the military should not have to sacrifice a legal career to be with a spouse. Similarly, a member of the military should not have to leave such a spouse behind to continue his or her legal career. As a former Marine Corps combat engineer, I am especially proud of this show of support of the men and women — and their families — who pledge their lives in service to our country.
And as for deciding cases? More than 3,000 of them have been decided by the Supreme Court since I became a justice in 2002. Many Kansans know of only a few. But more Kansans are learning about these other cases by attending court sessions we have conducted in 12 Kansas communities since early 2011.
Our next session to familiarize Kansans with our work will be at Hutchinson Community College the evening of October 4. And someday, perhaps a lawyer spouse of a military member stationed in Kansas will be arguing one of those cases in front of us – and you.