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September 03, 2008

Judge selection in JoCo

My colleague Stephen Ware (8/23, Letters) says the Johnson County judicial nominating process is “controversial” because of “its secrecy and the way it favors lawyers.” These words, along with “accountability,” are buzz words of the Federalist Society, of which Ware is a spokesman. Only lawyers can be district judges. The Johnson County system for selecting lawyers to hold these positions starts with a commission of 14, half of whom are lawyers and half not. It does not give lawyers “tremendous power” and non-lawyers less. It gives them equal power. There is nothing controversial about that. If by “secrecy” Ware means that the discussions of the candidates’ qualifications do not take place in public, what can be controversial about that? Does any organization discuss personnel matters publicly? As for accountability, the fact that the lawyers selected as judges must face periodic retention elections provides direct public accountability. That few judges are rejected in such elections means that the system has been successful in producing the kind of fair and competent judges Johnson Countians want and need.

Can that be controversial? Perhaps, to those who oppose fair and competent judges.

Robert C. Casad
Professor of Law Emeritus,
University of Kansas

As a non-attorney member of Johnson County’s Judicial Nominating Commission, the letter written by KU law professor Stephen Ware was of considerable interest, particularly because of his exaggerated view of the supposed “secrecy” of the nominating process and how lawyer members of the commission dominate it. I’ve served on the commission for more than five years. We publicize the names of applicants, interview them in open, public sessions and seek input from attorneys and lay people in Johnson County.  Our only deliberations not on the record are specific discussions regarding the individual applicants for judge. Our votes are by secret ballot, ensuring no intimidation or political pressuring. The commission has seven lawyers and seven lay citizens, the latter appointed by the elected Board of County Commissioners. The lawyers bring a specialized knowledge of what makes a good judge, but they hardly dominate the discussions, nor do they gang up on us lay people.

Janis McMillen
Overland Park


Gentle Ben

I am indeed accurate, and I invite anyone to replicate my findings. I support the direct election of judges simply because we need a mechanism to get rid of weasels like Terry Bullock over in Topeka and Kevin Moriarty on Johnson County. Neither is fit for office and it is a condemnation of the BAR Association that it made Bullock its attorney, or judge of the year during one of the years when his decisions were the most egregiously biased.

The simple fact is that we can no longer trust anyone associated with the legal profession to regulate themselves. Indeed, this year's self reviews of judges in both Kansas and Missouri turned up nothing but 2 whitewashes where all judges were given a clean bill of health (at least that's what the papers are reporting, so I could be wrong there given my sources).


Janis McMillen, co-president of the JoCo League of Women Voters in 2000, was appointed to the 10th Judicial District Nominating Commission in March 2004 by JoCo Commissioner, Dolores Furtado, the other co-president of the JoCo League of Women Voters in 2000. The League brags about being non-partisan, but they are a far-left political organization.

Janis McMillen is now the president of the MAINstream Coalition, another far-left political group.

Let's quit pretending the current process is not political. Electing judges directly would at least get the politics into the public square for scrutiny by all.


Gentle Ben, I would have to disagree, Clay County is far worse than JoCo pertaining to corruption.
Many judges are receiving a nice little kick back, especially at the circuit level.
Family court judges and commissioners are in on the Ponzi scheme. Many receivinf hefty "bonuses" and confisctaing property (via liens through the State) then many purchase that property after jailing the respondents. Check into Commissioner Sherril Rosen, as an example, she owns several properties of which the previous prperty owners were respondents she jailed.
How convenient.


The letter presents a system that is good in theory. If Gentle Ben is accurate it is however, a system that has failed in practice. Perhaps Marctnts has the solution.


"Does any organization discuss personnel matters publicly?"

I would venture the guess that a PUBLIC organization, appointing (not electing) a PUBLIC official with considerable judicial powers once appointed, should discuss personnel matters publicly. Were not talking about hiring a new janitor and getting upset because the taxpayers want to see a copy of his application.

"As for accountability, the fact that the lawyers selected as judges must face periodic retention elections provides direct public accountability."

How many voters do you think actually know anything about the judge they're pulling the handle for? Maybe, just maybe, do you think that a first term before this "review" election is enough of an advantage to just about any judge that it virtually guarantees confirmation.

Here's my take. I fully understand the problems with requiring judges to publicly campaign for office. I agree that it would encourage judicial activism. But what about those attorneys and laymen who do the appointing. Currently, they themselves are appointed to their positions. Instead of rewarding campaign supporters and party faithful with these positions, require the commission members to be elected by the public.

Gentle Ben

Is your fancy nominating commission the reason why the bench in conservative, Republican Johnson County is awash in left wing political hacks? Is that the reason why in 2004 both judges appointed by this farce were hacks from Dennis Moore's old law firm?

Or how about the last judge that was appointed. The selection was 3 Democrats, two of whom were major donors to Kathleen Sebelius. The biggest donor to Kathleen was appointed.

The latest crop is much the same. More political hacks from Johnson County's sleazy leftist legal establishment.

Johnson County has become the most corrupt county in the state and these slimeball judges are leading the way just as left wing activist judges have drug our country down at the national level.

Give the people the chance to get rid of this pack of trash. Give them real elections, not these Soviet style one person affirmations.

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