Today Governor Laura Kelly appointed Sarah E. Warner to fill the vacancy created by retired Court of Appeals Judge Patrick McAnany. Warner lives in Lenexa and practices law in Lawrence with Thompson Warner, P.A.
“Sarah Warner is one of the brightest lawyers in our state and an expert in appellate advocacy,” Kelly said. “She will bring a wealth of experience and energy to the court.”
Warner has not only built her practice on tackling the kind of complex issues our appellate courts must handle, but she’s also devoted her time to serving the community through leading various bar associations and teaching appellate practice at Washburn Law School. She is currently president of the Kansas Bar Association.
Warner grew up in Pittsburg, then attended the University of Kansas as an undergraduate. She majored in French, international studies, mathematics, and political science, and graduated in 2003 with honors and distinction. She received a full scholarship to attend Ave Maria School of Law, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2006. After law school, she served as a law clerk to Chief Justice Robert E. Davis of the Kansas Supreme Court until 2009. Since then she has practiced law in Lawrence, becoming a partner in her firm in 2014.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to join the Court of Appeals judges who I have long admired for their service to our state and the legal profession,” Warner said. “I thank Governor Kelly for trusting me to bring an independent, impartial perspective to the important work of the Court of Appeals and its distinguished jurists. I’m ready to get to work.”
Warner’s appointment is subject to Senate confirmation and her materials are being forwarded to the Senate today. Before 2013, Court of Appeals judges were not subject to Senate confirmation and were selected by the governor from a group of finalists named by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. Because Governor Kelly favors that merit-based selection process, she tasked a committee of knowledgeable lawyers and non-lawyers with recommending finalists for the Court of Appeals vacancy.
The nominating committee forwarded three candidates for Governor Kelly’s consideration, including Warner, Wichita attorney Marcia Wood, and Judge Jeffry Jack. Jack was initially selected, but his appointment was withdrawn from the Senate on March 19, 2019. The nominating committee selected Steve Obermeier, a former Senior Deputy District Attorney in Johnson County and now an Assistant Solicitor General with the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, as an additional finalist. Governor Kelly interviewed Obermeier and reviewed his impressive qualifications and background.
“Marcia Wood and Steve Obermeier are both incredibly talented attorneys and dedicated community servants,” Kelly said. “I appreciate their commitment to Kansas and their time and patience through this selection process.”
On May 9, the Kansas Supreme Court will hear arguments on the correct interpretation of Kansas law regarding appointments to the Court of Appeals. The law was changed in 2013 to require Senate confirmation of Court of Appeals appointments, and the Kansas Supreme Court has been asked to resolve technical questions about the new law that relates to appointment procedures.
“While I look forward to the Kansas Supreme Court resolving any confusion about the process for appointing Court of Appeals judges,” Kelly said, “I remain ready and willing to work with the Legislature to pass a simple, straightforward legislative fix to the statute regarding Court of Appeals appointments. I agree with Attorney General Schmidt that such a fix is the easiest and surest way to clarify the law.”
The Governor and Warner are eager to work with the Senate to ensure a smooth, efficient confirmation process.