Although most candidates at a forum Friday showcasing three Republican primary races for Sedgwick County District Court touted their backgrounds and qualifications for the bench, one candidate tore into her opponent.
In her opening remarks, Linda Kirby, a Wichita attorney running for Division I in the 18th Judicial District, accused incumbent Phil Journey of failing to do an adequate job as judge.
She said Journey sometimes had come to work two hours later than normal court hours.
She also cited a survey of attorneys that showed unfavorable opinions of him, and said he falsely claimed he’d never been overturned on appeal.
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In his closing comments, Journey said Kirby misrepresented the facts and her lack of trial experience didn’t qualify her for the job.
Their remarks came at a noon forum hosted by the Wichita Pachyderm Club. Other candidates at the forum included Dave Dahl and Faith Maughan in Division 2, and Jama Mitchell, David Nelson and incumbent J. Patrick Walters in Division 14.
Kirby cited a 2010 Wichita Eagle survey conducted by the Wichita Bar Association and said some of the respondents claimed Journey, who’s been on the bench since 2008, didn’t know the law, didn’t apply the laws as the Legislature wrote them, and did not articulate them well.
Kirby also said she has a record showing that during April and May, Journey came to work 90 minutes to two hours later than the court normally starts.
She also said Journey has claimed at other forums that he never has been overturned, but in fact he has been overturned at least twice.
“I would ask that a judge be truthful, I would ask that a judge be on time, I would ask that a judge know what the law is and be able to apply it effectively,” Kirby said.
Journey, she said, “has neglected his judicial duties.”
Journey said Kirby misrepresented the hours he’d worked during the time in question.
The record she had showed time codes that weren’t set properly, he said. Journey said he checked with his court reporter and determined he wasn’t late to work.
He also said Kirby misrepresented his claims about never being overturned. In an interview after the forum, Journey said he never was overturned as a trial judge. One case in which he was the sentencing judge was overturned, he said. Another case was sent back for lack of speedy trial, which he said was caused by a faulty recording machine that erased records and required him to hold a new hearing.
During the forum, Journey said that some lawyers in 2010 didn’t like him because he’d followed the laws on DUIs as a traffic judge. He predicted that the new Eagle survey, to be published at the end of July, will show that attorneys’ attitudes toward him have improved.
“My job is not to patronize the attorneys,” Journey told the forum. “My job is to make our community safer.”
Kirby, an attorney since 1988 and former law school teacher, said she was more qualified for the position than Journey, and that his background as a state senator and as a sitting judge didn’t entitle him to the job.
In his closing comments, Journey told the audience, “Ask yourself, why does my opponent keep talking about me? Because she doesn’t have a whole lot to talk about herself.”
Journey said Kirby has no experience as an attorney in jury trials or criminal cases.
“You don’t assume office with a learner’s permit,” he said.
The other candidates didn’t talk about their opponents. Division 2 candidate Dahl, a Wichita attorney since 1978, said a judge needs to be fair and impartial and a good decision-maker. He promised to be diligent and work hard on the bench.
Maughan, an attorney since 1998, said she wanted to be a judge to secure liberty for her children and all other children in the community. She said she’d follow the Constitution and uphold the rule of law.
Division 14 candidate Jama Mitchell, a public defender for almost 18 years, said she’s been in court almost daily on her job and observed judges, and that the most the important quality is impartiality. She said people are losing their civil and property rights, and she’d fight for those rights from the bench.
David Nelson, a Wichita attorney for more than 30 years, said he was asking for a chance to serve as a judge to perform a public service after being in private practice.
Walters, who has been a judge since 2008, said it is vital for judges to provide a safe community, and that he thinks about that every day on the bench.