Keen A. Umbehr                                                        Attorney at Law

Keen A. Umbehr    

Attorney at Law


Keen in front of Alma law office.

Keen A. Umbehr was a trashman for seventeen years before deciding to sell his business and return to college. After graduating with honors from Kansas State University, Keen enrolled in Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas. He graduated from law school on May 14, 2005, passed the bar in July, and was sworn in on September 30, 2005. He is currently in private practice in Alma, Kansas. (See WIBW news footage.)


While Keen was operating his trash business in Alma (Wabaunsee County), Kansas, he also wrote a weekly newspaper column called "My Perspective," where he often criticized the local county commissioners. After the commissioners terminated Keen's ten-year contract (despite the fact that he had never missed a day), Keen filed a 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 lawsuit alleging that the termination was in retaliation for his decision to exercise his First Amendment rights. The case wound its way through every level of the legal system, ending up at the United States Supreme Court where Keen's brother-in-law, Robert A Van Kirk, presented oral arguments.


On June 28, 1996, the Supreme Court handed down a 7-2 ruling in Keen's favor, establishing First Amendment rights for private contractors throughout the country. (See Oyez.orgIn her written decision, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote:

“But either type of relationship provides a valuable financial benefit, the threat of the loss of which in retaliation for speech may chill speech on matters of public concern by those who, because of their dealings with the government, ‘are often in the best position to know what ails the agencies for which they work,’ Waters v. Churchill. . . .


The Topeka Capital-Journal selected Keen as one of eight Distinguished Kansans for 1996. In 1998, Keen was the recipient of the Free Spirit Award from The Freedom Forum - a nonpartisan foundation based in Washington, D.C., dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people.


Keen has been married to his high school sweetheart Eileen since June 10, 1978.  Eileen has published a book about their Supreme Court battle titled Small Town Showdown, available on They have four sons: Jared, in the United States Navy based in Mississippi, his wife Jodi and their five children: Asher, 14, Gabe, 11; Dayton, 9, Emma, 7 and Oakley, 4; Josh, a family practice physician who opened his own medical practice (Atlas MD) located near the Waterfront in Wichita, Kansas, and his wife Lisa, an RN, the parents of three children, Katelyn, 7; Paige, 6 and Cole, 3; Keen II, Director of Business Development for NISSCO, LLC, who lives in Leawood, Kansas, with his wife, Tiffany Pankratz-Umbehr, (owner of a clothing boutique in Olathe, Kansas: Inspire by Tiffany), the parents of Weston Gram Umbehr born on November 15, 2012, expecting Baby #2 in March, and Kirk Van, who graduated from Kansas State University in 2011 with a degree in hotel and restaurant management with a minor in business, works at a country club in Kansas City, and married Amanda Kay Robinson on December 29, 2012.  ( Amanda is the assistant general manager at another Kansas City area country club. 



On May 23, 2012, Keen A. Umbehr filed a formal complaint against Kansas Disciplinary Administrator Stan Hazlett. On June 29, 2012, a special prosecutor was appointed by the Kansas Supreme Court.**  


For more information, see the following ABA Journal which contains a link to a pdf version of the complete, formal complaint. You may also log on to to view  a truncated version of the full complaint and read about a dozen of the most relevant documents supporting the allegations against Mr. Hazlett.


**Note: The formal complaint against Mr. Hazlett was dismissed on February 6, 2013. See article in Topeka Capital-Journal, February 17, 2013.

 "I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.

Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." 


~ Elie Wiesel, Nobel acceptance speech (December 10, 1986)


Keen Umbehr closed his law office in March of 2014 to campaign full time for governor of Kansas.
He has no plans to return to private practice and is not accepting any new cases or clients.

To learn more about how Keen went from working as a trashman for 17 years to becoming an attorney at the age of 47,
and the First Amendment case that inspired his career change, check out a copy of Eileen Umbehr's book,
 Available at Amazon and Barnes and


Keen and Eileen (photo by Eileen's late sister, Patricia Van Kirk)

Eileen Umbehr's book, Small Town Showdown

Josh Umbehr's medical practice, Atlas MD

Atlas MD on YouTube

Umbehr family photos



Keen in Alma law office