Senate confirms Warner for Appeals Court

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The Kansas Senate on Wednesday confirmed Gov. Laura Kelly’s nominee to the Kansas Court of Appeals, following months of political turmoil marking the nomination process.

The Senate voted 37-1 to confirm the nomination of Lawrence attorney Sarah Warner to replace Patrick McAnany on the Appeals Court. Warner was confirmed following the Senate’s rejection of District Judge Jeffry Jack, who was widely criticized for profanity-laced Twitter rants against conservative political leaders.

Warner was part of a team of litigators who defended state laws that the Legislature passed limiting abortion rights. Her firm has been paid about $900,000 for that work since 2011.

She also attended a law school founded by a pro-life businessman and whose faculty included the late jurist and onetime Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork.

Warner told senators during her confirmation hearing that she would adhere to the Kansas Supreme Court’s recent ruling that the state may only infringe on abortion rights if it has a compelling interest with a narrowly tailored action.

“That is Kansas Supreme Court precedent,” Warner said. “As a Court of Appeals judge, I would be duty-bound to follow that precedent, and I would apply it.”

Sarah Warner

She also said she would follow court precedent finding that the state constitution’s Bill of Rights is broader than the equal protection rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution.

“My position on that is simply a recognition of the fact that I am seeking a position on the intermediate Court of Appeals, and that the Kansas Court of Appeals is bound by Kansas Supreme Court precedent,” she said.

During her confirmation hearing, Warner also was asked about her studies at Ave Maria Law School, which was founded by Domino’s Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan in 1999.

The Associated Press explained the origins of the school in this 1999 report that details how Monaghan, who is pro-life, spent $50 million to create a law school with a goal of mixing “legal advocacy and Catholic morality.”

She was asked how her studies at Ave Maria might influence her decision-making on the Appeals Court bench.

“I don’t know that I took any courses that were out of the ordinary for law school curriculum,” Warner said.

“As a judge, you would look at the facts before you and apply the law. I don’t know that there would be a difference,” she said. “I would hope that there wouldn’t be a difference between the quality of judging that would come from various academic backgrounds.”

Warner graduated from law school in the top 10% of her law class, and she was senior editor on the school’s law review.

She also graduated in the top 10% of her class at the University of Kansas, where she majored in French, math, international studies and political science.

Warner was named president of the Kansas Bar Association at age 38 and was elected to the Kansas Bar’s Board of Governors at 35. She became president of the Kansas Association of Defense Counsel at 36.