Kansas Supreme Court justice targeted by right to retire

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July 11, 2019 - 10:44 AM

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Supreme Court justice whose votes for abortion rights and against the death penalty made him a political target plans to retire in three months, allowing Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to name a replacement before the Republican-controlled Legislature can intervene.

Justice Lee Johnson announced Wednesday that he will step down Sept. 8 after more than 12½ years on the state’s highest court. Johnson is 72, but Kansas law would have allowed him to put his name on the ballot again in 2020 for a statewide, yes-or-no vote on whether he remained on the court for another six years, until January 2027.

Johnson was part of a 6-1 majority that in April declared access to abortion a “fundamental” right under the state’s Bill of Rights. He has voted multiple times to overturn convicted murderers’ death sentences and argued that capital punishment itself violates the Kansas Constitution. He joined other justices in ordering six increases in public school funding within the past six years.

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