The Eagle provided all Sedgwick County district judges and candidates with their individual evaluations and invited their feedback. Here are comments from those who responded:
“I believe the Sedgwick County District Court judges work quite hard and are extremely conscientious. All of us strive to do the best job possible, and this evaluation is a valuable tool to help us understand where we can do some things even better in the performance of our duties.”
“This evaluation should be abolished as grossly misleading, especially in cases of candidates who are challenging incumbent judges. Under the promise of secrecy, this evaluation is easily manipulated by attorneys actively campaigning for their favorite judge. Activist attorneys can vote in favor of their candidate and against their candidate’s opponent.
“In 2012, Candidate Zoey Newton responded to her poor evaluation questioning why 59 attorneys evaluated her when she had not come into professional contact with more than 10 Bar members. She was a Republican opposing a sitting Democratic judge who received 241 votes.
“In my practice, I have been in court or legal negotiations with fewer than 30 attorneys who are members of the Bar. Yet 63 attorneys, by responding, state that they have had professional legal contact with me. This evaluation is invalidated by the responses of more than 30 attorneys who have no knowledge of my professional legal practice. This survey, so powerful a tool in deciding elections and vulnerable to political manipulation with promised secrecy, must be audited to assure its integrity or invalidated.”
“As a judge it’s sometimes difficult to obtain accurate feedback on how we are doing in our job. The judicial survey is a good method of reminding us where we have room to improve and where we are doing well. I think it’s important to remain open to constructive criticism or we run the risk of becoming too isolated and set in our ways.”
“ While some high numbers and low numbers can probably be discounted for obvious reasons (favorable or unfavorable rulings in disputed matters), I feel this evaluation adds predominately objective feedback to the judges about how the attorneys perceive we are doing our job and that we can and should use it as a tool for professional improvement.”
“I’m pleased that 98 percent of attorneys in Wichita have nothing bad to say about me. I find it encouraging that my opponents have only a handful of supporters who are willing to anonymously malign me.
“I’ve never had an ethics complaint filed against me in Kansas or during my military career. With that said, the best measure of a lawyer is what he does for his clients, not other lawyers. I zealously represent my clients. I pursue evidence that some attorneys don’t want to turn over. I move cases to trial when that is what the client wants. And I make a record of abuses of the law without regard for who gets upset by it.
“This can make life difficult for attorneys and I’m not surprised a few would complain. But as a judge I will administer the court for the benefit of the public and not for the convenience of attorneys. To ensure that my dedication to the law and the people is beyond question, I do not accept campaign money from courthouse attorneys, unlike my opponents.”
“I am incredibly proud of my results. I ranked them two different ways and found that my highest score on both scales is my fair treatment of people without regard to race, gender and sexual orientation. The next three highest scores were 2) is ethical; 3) is fair; and 4) is respectful, courteous and professional. I feel that shows a high quality character.
“The technical issues can be learned at judges’ school, but the character traits are what I bring to the job. As for the low marks on those issues, I would ask why I have not had complaints lodged against me with the Bar if I have been so egregious. I believe those marks are not indicative of who I am.”
“It is a privilege to serve as a district court judge. The nature of the work prevents me from being able to make everyone happy all the time. However, the opinions of the lawyers responding to the survey are important to me. I will study the responses and consider them in my continuing efforts to be the best judge I can be.”
“One thing that strikes me is the small number of responses from the bar. I wish there had been more than the few.
“Who responded. The problem one always encounters is the ability to skew the results with a concerted effort. I do wonder about those three people who consistently disagreed.”