Lost Springs native named district court judge
Amy Hanley’s parents, Kent and Jean Brunner of rural Lost Springs, say she always liked to debate things, so they weren’t surprised when she decided to go into law.
“As a child, she was inquisitive,” Jean Brunner said. “She asked a lot of questions and thought long and hard about things. As she grew older, she knew what she thought.”
After serving seven years as a lawyer in the Kansas Attorney General’s office, Hanley, 41, will become a district court judge for the Seventh Judicial District in Lawrence on Dec 2. She was appointed in October by Gov. Sam Brownback.
Brunner said her daughter was persistent in pursuing goals.
“She always gave everything she had,” Brunner said. “In 4-H she did everything she could and stayed in it as long as she could. That carried through to her career.”
Hanley credits her involvement in FFA for her interest in law.
“I had many public speaking roles, and my adviser, Cary Granzow, remarked that I should be a lawyer someday,” she said. “I have always enjoyed public speaking, and I have always spoken up for myself and others.”
She sees herself as just that, an advocate for others.
The 1993 Centre High School graduate enrolled in Kansas State University with the goal of law school in mind, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science. She graduated in 2001 from Drake University Law School in Des Moines, Iowa.
Hanley worked for seven years in the Saline County Attorney’s before being appointed to assist Attorney General Derek Schmidt in 1999. She prosecutes high-level crimes throughout the state, including murder and sexual abuse of children. She is a special assistant United States attorney for the specific purpose of prosecuting online crimes against children.
One of her most widely—known cases is the prosecution of Brett Seacat for the April 2011 first-degree murder of his wife in Kingman. He was sentenced to life in prison in June 2013.
Hanley also prosecuted the nationally televised capital murder case against James Kahler, who killed four family members in Burlingame in November 2009. Kahler received the death sentence in October 2011.
Hanley is a frequent teacher and lecturer and has earned honors too numerous to mention. As a senior faculty member of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, she teaches advocacy courses across the country and even in Tokyo, Japan.
“I feel strongly about the importance of the advocacy profession and am committed to improving the trial skills of all lawyers,” she said.
That role will change as she becomes a judge.
“I will leave behind my role as an advocate and become an impartial decision-maker,” she said.
Her initial docket will include civil and domestic cases.
Along with holidays and special family events, Hanley said she never misses attending the annual Cow Camp Ranch bull sale the Brunner family holds every year.
Her husband, John, is a banker in Kansas City.
Hanley enjoys cooking, traveling, and spending time with John and her two cats.