Haskell alumnus becomes first graduate of a tribal university to attend Harvard Law School

College wasn’t on Connor Veneski’s radar as a high school student. Instead, he was leaning toward a future in welding or in the military.

Connor Veneski, a 2017 graduate of Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence, stands in a park in Yuma, Arizona, on Dec. 26, 2018. Veneski is forging a path as the first student admitted to Harvard Law School from a tribal university.

College wasn’t on Connor Veneski’s radar as a high school student. Instead, he was leaning toward a future in welding or in the military.

But not only did college become a reality for Veneski, he’s also now a bit of a trailblazer. Veneski, a 2017 graduate of Haskell Indian Nations University, just finished his first semester at Harvard Law School. And while it’s not unusual for Haskell graduates to attend law school, Veneski is the first student admitted to Harvard Law not only from Haskell, but from any tribal university in America.

He described his first semester as “long and really hard.” Plus, he faced culture shock as one of the 500 students in the Harvard Law School Class of 2021.

He found himself surrounded by extremely talented classmates — including people who attended Oxford and Cambridge universities for their undergraduate studies — as well as privileged ones.

“I thought people were looking at me in my Carhartts and boots,” Veneski said.

However, he said, those intimidating circumstances only encouraged him to work harder.

Knowing he is the first Native American from a tribal college in the class is a “pretty wild feeling,” Veneski said.

Currently, 2 percent of enrolled students at Harvard are Native American, according to the Harvard Gazette. Veneski and another student, Chance Fletcher, a member of the Cherokee Nation, are the only two Native Americans in the law school class of 2021. Fletcher’s undergraduate degree is from Princeton

Mary Shultz
Holiday Schedule

The District Court and Law Library will be closed Monday, December 24 and Tuesday, December 25 for the Christmas holiday.

The District Court and Law Library will also be closed on Tuesday, January 1, 2019, for the New Year’s Day observance.

Mary Shultz
Updated Notice to Kansas Active Attorneys - Court of Appeals Vacancy

Pursuant to K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 20-3020(a)(2), the Kansas judicial branch has notified Governor-Elect Laura Kelly of a vacancy that will occur on the Kansas Court of Appeals as a result of the retirement of Judge Patrick D. McAnany.  Position 4 on the Kansas Court of Appeals will be vacant effective January 14, 2019. See K.S.A 2017 Supp. 20-3006(a)  The Governor has 60 days from the date the position becomes open to make the appointment, subject to confirmation by the Kansas Senate. 
The statutory qualifications to serve on the Court of Appeals are set forth at K.S.A. 2017 Supp. 20-3020(d) and K.S.A. 20-105.  Any qualified Kansas attorney or judge who is interested in being considered for the position should fill out the application and return it to Governor-Elect Laura Kelly’s Transition Office by noon on Friday, December 28, 2018.
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Governor-Elect Kelly has elected to use a merit-based selection process similar to the nominating commission procedures used to nominate Kansas Supreme Court Justices.  The names of applicants and interviews with the selection committee will be open to the public.

Mary Shultz
Kathy Kirk establishes Equal Justice Scholarship

Lawrence attorney Katherine “Kathy” Kirk, an attorney with the Law Offices of Jerry K. Levy PA has established the Equal Justice Scholarship, available to single-parent, female law students. Kirk began planning for the scholarship while president of the Kansas Bar Foundation and is one of a dozen scholarships offered by the Foundation.

Mary Shultz
Lawrence homicide victim to be featured in Rose Parade float honoring organ donors

A "floragraph" of Lawrence homicide victim Leah Brown will be among donor portraits on the 2019 Donate Life Rose Parade Float. Brown's donated tissue and corneas helped at least 50 people, the organization says. At 22, Leah Brown was gunned down by a stray bullet in downtown Lawrence. After her death, however, Brown was able to help others as an organ donor.

Brown will be one of about 40 organ, eye and tissue donors nationwide to be honored with a “floragraph” on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif. Donate Life says the “artistic portraits,” made of seeds, that are featured on its annual floats are often decorated by honorees’ family members. Organ recipients and other champions of the cause will ride and walk alongside the float.

Brown’s profile on the Donate Life site describes a vibrant and caring person.

“She was grateful and gracious, a young woman who was appreciative of the smallest gestures of love given to her by others. She felt the best way to spend time was with family and friends. Not only did she enjoy riding her motorcycle, she loved dancing, roller skating, riding horses, ‘Taco Tuesdays’, baking, spontaneity and laughing,” it says. “…Fittingly, beneath her final Instagram post, Leah wrote simply and passionately, ‘Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.'”

Mary Shultz
National Day of Mourning December 5, 2018

By virtue of the District Court’s Administrative Order No. 18-19, the Douglas County Law Library will be closed to the public on Wednesday, December 5, 2018, in observance of the National Day of Mourning of the death of former President George H. W. Bush.

Mary Shultz
Gov.-elect Kelly will use merit-based system instead to select Court of Appeals Judges

The incoming Governor says she does not plan to use the same system of selecting appellate court judges that former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback used. That system allows the governor to make appointments directly, subject to Senate confirmation.

Instead, Governor-elect Kelly says she will use a process akin to the old way of choosing judges by filtering applications through a nonpartisan nominating committee that will forward to her a list of three candidates from which to choose.

“In an effort to increase transparency, we will use a merit-based selection process similar to that used by the Kansas Supreme Court,” Kelly said in a recent statement. “This is not required, but I believe the people of Kansas deserve to observe this process and know that we are choosing a highly-qualified person to serve in this important judicial position. I am committed to being open and transparent.”

The opening on the court is being created by the upcoming retirement of Judge Patrick D. McAnany, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 earlier in November.

Mary Shultz
5 reappointed to juvenile justice committee

The Kansas Supreme Court reappointed five people to two-year terms on the Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee. The committee, formed in 2016 at the direction of the Kansas Legislature, reviews and oversees improvements to the juvenile justice system in the state. Membership includes representation from all three branches of government.

The Supreme Court appointees are: District Judge Delia York, serving in the 29th Judicial District, composed of Wyandotte County. District Magistrate Judge Paula Hofaker, serving in Phillips County of the 17th District, also composed of Decatur, Graham, Norton, Osborne, and Smith counties. Kevin Emerson, chief court services officer for the 28th Judicial District, composed of Ottawa and Saline counties. Lara Blake Bors, Garden City, a juvenile defense attorney. Amy Raymond, director of trial courts programs, Office of Judicial Administration, Kansas judicial branch.

Mary Shultz
November/December Art Exhibit

Sharron Spence of Paola, Kansas is our featured artist during November and December.  Please visit the District Attorney reception area, Div. 1/4/6 office entry area, Div. 3 office area and the Law Library to see Sharron’s paintings. 

Coming soon - more artwork will be on display in the reception area of the District Court Clerk’s office. 

If you have any suggestions of an artist whose works you would like to see displayed, please contact Mary in the Law Library. 

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Mary Shultz