Two appellate judges and a trial judge were named Tuesday as finalists for an opening on the Kansas Supreme Court, even while a federal lawsuit challenges how the state selects members of its highest court.


Two appellate judges and a trial judge were named Tuesday as finalists for an opening on the Kansas Supreme Court, even while a federal lawsuit challenges how the state selects members of its highest court.

The Supreme Court Nominating Commission announced it narrowed 13 applicants to state Court of Appeals Judges Nancy Caplinger and Tom Malone and Lyon County District Judge Merlin Wheeler.

Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat leaving office in January, has until Nov. 27 to make the appointment. The high court has a vacancy because of the Aug. 3 retirement of Chief Justice Robert Davis, who died the next day.

Four Kansas voters are suing the nominating commission in federal court, alleging their rights are being violated because lawyers unfairly dominate the selection process. But a federal judge refused two weeks ago to issue an order blocking attorney-members of the nominating commission from participating.

"We'll go ahead and continue with the process as we normally would," said Parkinson spokeswoman Amy Jordan Wooden. "Until a court of law tells us otherwise, we'll still proceed."

James Bopp, a Terre Haute, Ind., attorney representing the four Kansas voters, did not return a telephone message to his office. Bopp's other clients include the conservative group Focus on the Family and the National Right to Life Committee.