Archive for Tuesday, April 8, 2003

State Supreme Court justice to retire

April 8, 2003

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— Kansas Supreme Court Justice Bob Abbott, who has written more than 2,000 legal opinions during his judicial career, said Monday he would retire June 6.

Abbott, 70, was appointed to the Supreme Court in September 1990 after 13 years on the Kansas Court of Appeals. Because of his age, he would be ineligible to seek retention on the Supreme Court next year.

Last year, Abbott wrote the Supreme Court opinion that ruled for a natural gas pipeline company in a tax dispute with the state, which resulted in $25 million in refunds to the firm.

He wrote the 1996 decision that said the state could not prosecute former Insurance Commissioner Fletcher Bell could for collecting a $94,469 workers' compensation award five years earlier.

And in 1992, he wrote an 82-page opinion -- one of the court's longest -- upholding Richard Grissom's life sentences for three Johnson County murders in which bodies were never found. The opinion covered 39 points of law.

Chief Justice Kay McFarland on Monday praised Abbott's dedication.

"You could always count on him," McFarland said in an interview. "He's been a real workhorse for the court."

Barring some unexpected departure from the court before June 6, Abbott's retirement will clear the way for Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' first appointment to the Supreme Court. She will select from three names submitted by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission, which screens applications.

A native of Hanston, Abbott practiced law in Junction City for 17 years before his 1977 appointment to the Kansas Court of Appeals. He was named to the Supreme Court by then-Gov. Mike Hayden.

Three other justices -- Edward Larson, Tyler Lockett and Fred Six -- have retired from the seven-member court since last September.

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