Richard D. Greene, chief judge of the Kansas Court of Appeals, died Sunday of complications from a heart condition at a hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.
Greene, 62, was appointed to the court in 2003 by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. The state Supreme Court made him chief in January 2011.
Ill off and on since last summer, Greene had been receiving treatment at the Cleveland hospital the last few weeks. In his absence, Tom Malone was acting chief judge of the 13-member panel.
Malone called Greene’s death “a huge loss for the state of Kansas.”
“Richard Greene was a great friend and an outstanding chief for the court of appeals,” Malone said in a written statement. “As a judge, Richard was dedicated to the rule of law and his only allegiance was to the constitution.”
Gov. Sam Brownback will pick Greene’s replacement on the court from a list of names submitted by a judicial nominating committee. The Supreme Court will decide whether to make Malone’s acting status permanent or pick another member of the court for that position.
Greene was a strong supporter of the selection process, in which a panels of lawyers and laymen review applications for the court. That assures that “only the best and the brightest” become judges, Greene wrote in a 2011 op-ed piece that argued against a bill then wending its way through the Kansas Legislature. It would would have given the governor the sole power to appoint judges without any involvement from a nominating commission.
“We don’t need politicians as judges,” Greene wrote. “We need judges who will fairly and impartially interpret and apply Kansas law without regard to political ideology, political agenda, political party or political contributors.”
Kansas voters have the power to remove judges from the bench. They stand for retention every four years. Greene’s term was up this year.
Born in Hermann, Mo., he earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Missouri-Columbia and his law degree at Southern Methodist University.
Before his appointment to the court, Greene was in private practice for 28 years with the Wichita-based law firm of Morris, Laing, Evans, Brock & Kennedy.
Greene is survived by his wife, Mary Sue, four grown daughters and four granddaughters.