Topeka The Kansas Supreme Court has a new justice, an attorney widely respected for his work for state agencies but who’s been in the spotlight because of his ties to the state Democratic Party’s chairman.
Dan Biles, 56, of Shawnee, was sworn in Friday by Chief Justice Robert E. Davis as the 74th justice, replacing former Chief Justice Kay McFarland, who retired in January.
After his wife and daughters helped him don his robe, Biles took his seat as the seventh justice at the far right seat on the bench, the traditional place for the court’s newest member.
Biles said he stood before the court more than 20 times to argue cases over the years.
“Without exception, at no time did I feel any member of the court was doing anything but supporting the constitution of the state and the United States,” he said.
He also told the some 300 people in the Supreme Court chamber that he would “preserve the neutrality of the court.”
Biles represented the State Board of Education in a 1999 lawsuit before the state’s highest court that forced the Legislature to phase in an $892 million increase in school funding over the past four years.
He represented the Kansas Lottery before the court, successfully arguing the 2007 expanded gambling law was constitutional, allowing the lottery to go forward with plans for four state-owned casinos.
Also, he successfully defended Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ decision in 2002 as insurance commissioner to deny the merger of the state’s largest health insurer with an Indiana corporation because of concerns about decreased services and increased rates.
He was appointed in January by Sebelius, a Democrat and close friend of his former law partner, Larry Gates, the Democratic chairman for the past six years.
Sebelius said at the time that she has known Biles for three decades and has relied on his legal advice since becoming governor. She said his association with Gates wasn’t a factor.
Gates and Biles also had in common a long association with Community Living Opportunities, of Lenexa, a nonprofit social services agency for the developmentally disabled. It’s been under scrutiny for receiving additional Medicaid dollars from the state and could be subject to House and Senate budget subcommittee hearings.
With Biles’ appointment, Sebelius has named four justices, marking it the first time a governor has named a majority of its seven members.
Her other appointees are Justices Carol Beier in 2003, Eric Rosen in 2005 and Lee Johnson in 2007. The other members are Chief Justice Robert E. Davis, on the court since 1993, and Justice Lawton Nuss, appointed in 2002.