Kansas Court of Appeals Judge Michael B. Buser will retire Jan. 31, 2022, after 17 years on the bench.
Buser was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 2005, after spending 28 years as an attorney in private practice and in public service.
“As an appellate judge, I’ve learned that while judges may come and go, the court’s dedication to provide fair and impartial justice endures,” Buser said. “I know from my own experience that the Kansas appellate courts administer justice wisely and impartially”
During his time on the Court of Appeals, Buser has had to make rulings in cases ranging from criminal law, family law and business disputes, to deciding the market value of a 13-year-old Yorkshire terrier.
“The challenge of being a Court of Appeals judge is that it requires you to be knowledgeable about all aspects of civil and criminal law,” Buser said.
Being an expert on a wide range of legal topics is easier when the court’s decision is made by an experienced panel of three judges.
“Each judge brings their legal background, life experience, and unique personality to the case conference,” Buser said. “The key is that we work together to resolve each case in a way that the law provides. It can be a difficult process, but it’s a rewarding one.”
Before shifting to videoconference hearings due to COVID-19, the Court of Appeals traveled across the state to hear appeals from district courts in both civil and criminal cases.
“I’ll miss driving around Kansas with my colleagues, holding court in the far reaches of our state, meeting with attorneys from the local bar, and speaking to students in colleges and high schools,” Buser said. “It’s a great way for judges to learn about our state and for Kansans to learn about our work.”
Buser became well known throughout the Kansas judicial branch for his continuing legal education programs with Karen Arnold-Burger, chief judge of the Court of Appeals. Together, the two created “Judge Esquire,” a rule-breaking judge who informs judges of their important ethical responsibilities in a lighthearted and entertaining way.
“Whether Judge Buser is dressed as the ethically challenged ‘Judge Esquire’ to make a point during a judicial education program, counseling all of us in his Mr. Rogers garb, or performing his spot-on impersonation of Elvis during our buildingwide chili cook-off, he challenges us to be better at our jobs while brightening our day,” Arnold-Burger said. “He has been a mentor to me and many other attorneys and judges. He has such a broad knowledge of all topics, and his retirement will definitely cause a void on our court. “
Buser grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, and Overland Park. He received undergraduate degrees from Georgetown University and a law degree from the University of Kansas School of Law.
Before joining the Court of Appeals in 2005, Buser was an assistant district attorney in Johnson County, a trial attorney for the Union Pacific Railroad, and an attorney with Shook, Hardy & Bacon in its Kansas City office.
Buser has had articles published by Georgetown University Press, Stanford Law Review, and Kansas Law Review. He is a member of the Kansas Bar Association, Johnson County Bar Association, and the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association.
He served as president of the Stop Violence Coalition, legal instructor for the Johnson County Police Academy, and on the Johnson County Bicentennial Commission on the Constitution, Georgetown University Alumni Admissions Committee, and Georgetown Club of Kansas City board of directors.
He and his wife, Holly, live in Overland Park, and have two married sons, and three grandchildren.
By law, the governor appoints judges to the Kansas Court of Appeals, subject to a majority confirmation by the Kansas Senate. The governor has 60 days from the date the position becomes vacant to make the appointment, although the appointment process can begin immediately.
Once the appointment is made, the incumbent must stand for a retention vote in the first general election after serving one year in office. Once retained, the judge serves a four-year term.
A Court of Appeals judge must be at least 30 years old and have been a Kansas lawyer, judge or full-time teacher at an accredited law school for at least 10 years.