Government & Politics

Kansas judge whose partisan tweets derailed appeals court nomination will retire

A southeast Kansas judge, whose failed nomination to a state appeals court marked an early defeat for Gov. Laura Kelly, is retiring after lawmakers condemned him over partisan tweets.

Judge Jeffry Jack announced Friday that he will retire Jan. 2, following a blowup over his nomination in March.

Jack has been a district court judge in Labette County since 2005. But it was Kelly’s nomination of him to the Kansas Court of Appeals that brought him statewide recognition — and criticism.

Within days of the nomination, old tweets from Jack surfaced. The tweets were laced with profanities and targeted President Donald Trump and Republicans.

Jack withdrew his name at Kelly’s request. But a legal dispute between Kelly and Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, over how the appeals court opening should be filled kept the controversy alive. The fight traveled up to the Kansas Supreme Court, which ruled that the law didn’t allow Jack’s nomination to be withdrawn.

That forced a highly unusual session of the Senate, with senators returning to Topeka in May for the sole purpose of voting down Jack’s nomination. The session cost roughly $16,000, and Jack was defeated 0-38.

At the time, many senators also signed a letter to the Kansas Commission on Judicial Conduct that said the controversial social media statements by Jack “impugn the dignity of his office and call into question” his ability to serve as a judge. The letter asked the commission to open an investigation into Jack.

Jack made no mention of the past controversy in a statement Friday.

“I have been privileged to be trusted by the people of the 11th Judicial District to serve them for 14 years as a district court judge,” Jack said. “It is at the trial court where Kansans go to resolve disputes and seek justice, and I am honored to have been able to make a contribution.”

Jack, who served in the Kansas House from 2003 to 2005 before becoming a judge, will become the area director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Douglas County, which is based in Lawrence.

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Jonathan Shorman covers Kansas politics and the Legislature for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. He’s been covering politics for six years, first in Missouri and now in Kansas. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Kansas.
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