Lorri Montgomery
Director of Communications
National Center for State Courts

Kansas Court of Appeals Judge named 2014 recipient of William H. Rehnquist Award

Judge Steve Leben recognized for work in procedural fairness


Williamsburg, VA (August 14, 2014) – Judge Steve Leben of the Kansas Court of Appeals has been named recipient of the 2014 William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). One of the nation’s highest judicial honors, the Rehnquist Award is presented annually to a state court judge who exemplifies judicial excellence, integrity, fairness, and professional ethics. Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. will present the award to Judge Leben during a ceremony at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on November 20.

“Judge Leben has dedicated his career to ensuring that ‘justice for all’ is actual, not merely aspirational,” said NCSC President Mary C. McQueen. “As a result of his groundbreaking work in procedural fairness, Judge Leben has personally contributed to enhancing the public’s trust and confidence in our country’s court system.”

Judge Leben said he was honored by the award but that he was most appreciative because of the recognition the award brings to the issue of procedural fairness, which he said educates judges about the importance of “treating the people who come into their courts with respect.” “People need to feel like they are listened to by a neutral judge who explains his or her decision. The public’s view of the justice system is driven more by how they are treated by the courts than whether they win or lose their case,” he said.

In 2007, Judge Leben and Minnesota Judge Kevin Burke co-authored a white paper for the American Judges Association titled “Procedural Fairness: A Key Ingredient in Public Satisfaction.” The paper has since been published in Spanish, and Judge Leben has conducted training sessions for thousands of judges across the country. He co-founded proceduralfairness.org, a website devoted to advancing procedural fairness in courts. Judge Leben recently co-authored a second American Judges Association white paper: “Minding the Court: Enhancing the Decision-Making Process,” which has been widely distributed among state and federal courts.

Judge Leben was named to the Kansas Court of Appeals in 2007 after nearly 14 years serving as a trial judge in Johnson County, Kansas. He has served as president of the American Judges Association, has published more than a dozen law review articles and teaches statutory interpretation as an adjunct professor at the University of Kansas School of Law. Judge Leben has served as editor of “Court Review,” a national journal for judges, since 1998. He is a co-founder of Ethics for Good, an annual continuing legal education program in Kansas City that has raised more than $500,000 for law-related charities over the past 15 years. In 2003, he received the NCSC’s Distinguished Service Award.

In a letter of recommendation for the Rehnquist Award, Kansas Chief Justice Lawton R. Nuss wrote: “Judge Leben has clearly dedicated himself to judicial excellence. He has strongly served our and other state courts, demonstrating over many years and through diverse activities the promotion and implementation of innovation in the management of these courts.”

Judge Burke, a Minneapolis trial judge and 2003 recipient of the William H. Rehnquist Award, called Judge Leben “a role model for all judges” and added: “He is one of the judiciary’s intellectual leaders. Few judges have had as much impact as Judge Leben.”

The National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., is a nonprofit court organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership and service to the state courts. Founded in 1971 by the Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger, NCSC provides education, training, technology, management, and research services to the nation’s state courts.


National Center for State Courts, 300 Newport Avenue, Williamsburg, VA  23185-4147