The judiciary of Kansas comprises of an apex court and various appellate and general jurisdiction tribunals. The Supreme Court of the state is its highest judicial authority and it is composed of seven judges including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who is considered the chief executive officer of the judicial branch of the state. While appellate courts are divided into two categories; trial tribunals are segregated on the basis of general and limited jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court of Kansas: This is last resort court of the state since there is no other judicial entity above it. Judges to the Supreme Court are elected for a term of 6 years and although they are appointed by the governor, they have to run for general election. The Supreme Court convenes at Topeka and it has the jurisdiction to hear review pleas from the district courts as well as from the Court of Appeals.
It has original jurisdiction in several matters particularly those that involve the application of state laws. The Supreme Court has administrative authority over all the tribunals in the state and makes the rules that govern appellate practice in the Court of Appeals. The rules of the apex tribunal also provide for the examination and the admission of lawyers
The Court of Appeals: In terms of judicial hierarchy, this tribunal is second only to the Supreme Court. Also located at Topeka, Kansas, the Court of Appeals holds scheduled hearings at three locations in the state; Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita. However, it has the discretion to sit anywhere within the geographical bounds of Kansas depending on case load.
As its name suggests, the Court of Appeals handles review petitions that come up from the district courts in both civil as well as criminal matters. Cases are heard en banc by all 13 judges; however, usually arguments are put forth before a panel of 3 judges.
District Courts: These are tribunals of general jurisdiction and they are among the two types of trial courts in the state of Kansas. Created by the constitution, the district court is divided into 31 districts one for every county. These tribunals have the authority to hear criminal as well as civil matters including domestic disputes, divorces, probate and guardianship, damage suits, the care of mentally ill patients, juveniles and small claims.
Some of the magistrates who preside over district courts are lawyers and others are not depending on whether the court has limited or general jurisdiction. Jury trials are available except for in small claim cases and when the jury does sit, it comprises of a 12 member panel.
Municipal Courts: These are tribunals of limited jurisdiction and they are on the lowest judicial level. These courts hear cases that pertain to the violation of city ordinances, generally matters that involve minor offenses and traffic related infractions. Cases are heard without a jury which means that the decision is left at the discretion of the magistrate. This tribunal does have the authority to issue Kansas arrest warrants.
Appeals from this court can be taken to the district tribunal within the county in which the municipal court is located. A person who has been charged with a crime in the municipal court does have the right to be represented by a lawyer and convictions can be overturned by a higher tribunal.