Topeka For Salina attorney Lawton Nuss, appointment to the Kansas Supreme Court means a chance to do something for the state that his great-grandparents helped settle.
Nuss, 49, who graduated from Kansas University School of Law, was named Wednesday to the state's highest court by Gov. Bill Graves. It's one of three positions on the seven-member court that Graves is expected to fill before leaving office in January.
"It is a special thrill to be able to do something for Kansas since my family has been here for so long," Nuss said.
His mother's grandparents settled outside Dodge City in the 1870s; his father's grandparents put down roots near Great Bend in the 1880s.
He will replace Justice Ed Larson, who retires next week from the seven-member court. Larson is the first of three justices leaving because of the mandatory retirement age of 70.
No date has been set for Nuss' swearing-in or for taking his place on the bench. The court will next hear arguments on Sept. 9.
Nuss and Graves went to school together, but the new justice said he never socialized with the governor as they grew up.
"I would flatter myself if I called him my friend. We have known each other for years," Nuss said. "I would be flattered if he considered himself my friend."
Nuss has been an attorney in Salina for 20 years, and his clients included the Salina board of education. He also served as a special prosecutor for Salina in 1994-96 and a federal court mediator since 1992.
He said he would resign from the law firm and turn his cases over to colleagues before moving to Topeka to serve on the court.
Nuss said he brought to the court a perspective from a private practice and experience as a trial lawyer, handling cases involving personal injury, employment law, civil rights and commercial litigation.
Through the years, he filed some 20 appeals with the Supreme Court. He argued before the justices about 18 months ago in a personal injury case that his client won.
Larson turns 70 on Friday and will leave the bench Wednesday. He will take senior status and be available to sit with the Court of Appeals as needed.
He was appointed to the Supreme Court by Graves in 1995. He also served on the Court of Appeals for eight years and was an attorney in Hays.
State law says judges can't serve beyond the end of the term in which they reach age 70. Larson's term ends in January.
Two other justices, Fred N. Six and Tyler Lockett, will leave when their terms end in January. Six, a Lawrence resident who joined the court in 1988, already is 70. Lockett, a justice since 1983, turns 70 in December.