Keen A. Umbehr     



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. They have four sons: Jared, in the United States Navy based in Mississippi, and his three children: Asher, 17, Gabe, 14 and Emma, age 10; Josh is a family practice physician who opened a medical clinic, Atlas MD, located near the Waterfront in Wichita, Kansas, and his wife Lisa, an RN, are the parents of three children, Katelyn, 10; Paige, 9 and Cole, 6;  Keen II, President of NISSCO, LLC, , who lives near Houston, Texas, with his wife, Tiffany, who works for Ernst and Young, and their two sons, Weston Gram Umbehr, age 4, and Keen Alfred Umbehr III, almost 3, and Kirk Van, works for AtlasMD and lives in a suberb of Kansas City with his wife Amanda and their daughter Bellamy Kay, who was born on April 3, 2016.  Amanda is the assistant GM at a Kansas City area country club. (



During oral arguments in State of Kansas v. Chandler (Case No. 108625), which were held at the Kansas Supreme Court on January 27, 2016,

the justices questioned Shawnee County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jacqie Spradling on several issues involving possible proscecutorial misconduct.


See article in the Topeka Capital-Journal. 


A video of the complete oral argument hearing can be viewed here.


A 4-minute video depicting Jacqie Spradling's claim that murder victim Michael Sisco had obtained a PFA against the defendant, Dana Chandler, can be viewed here.


On July 27, Keen Umbehr filed a formal complaint against Jacqie Spradling over her handling of the Dana Chandler case.



"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 2014 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, order a copy of Eileen Umbehr's book,
Small Town Showdown. Available at 


Eileen Umbehr's book, Small Town Showdown

Josh Umbehr's medical practice, Atlas MD

Atlas MD on YouTube

Umbehr family photos