Court must assure that it isn’t biased
In the same moments former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline stood before the Kansas Supreme Court presenting evidence for his defense, a member of the court’s staff was on Twitter, filling the public airways with line after line of bitter sarcasm, criminal accusations and negative predictions (Nov. 17 Local & State).
She has been fired for her conduct (Nov. 20 Local & State), but the question still remains: What kind of court culture exists in Kansas where a clerk would express such opinions publicly on a pending case? The Rules of Professional Conduct strictly forbid it.
Sarah Peterson Herr was a judicial clerk for Appeals Court Judge Christel Marquardt. Judicial clerks are the gatekeepers of the judicial process. Clerks research the law for new cases. Clerks do fact-checking for the judges. Sometimes a clerk will even write the opinion. With this kind of power in the process and outcome of a case, Herr’s bold statements of personal bias are unsettling.
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The public concern is twofold.
First, the statements were personal attacks, not legal reasoning. When our system of justice guarantees “equal justice under the law,” that means only the law must decide the outcome.
Second, the comments were bold and public. The fact that Herr felt comfortable voicing her opinions openly implies this kind of communication is common in her circles.
More needs to be done. This court must show it is committed to providing Kline – and all defendants – a fair trial. The public needs to know what steps the court is taking to preserve potential evidence of bias, including the office e-mails, tweets and communications of all current and former researchers on this case. The court must strive to assure the people that justice is not being perverted by personal bias.
MATHEW D. STAVER
Are “wealthy businessmen” and “job creator” really synonymous terms? We hear: “We must avoid increased taxes on wealthy businessmen in order to ‘save’ or ‘create’ jobs.” We also hear how “unions are the bad guys.” But look at an Associated Press article about the shutdown of Hostess Foods (Nov. 17 Eagle).
The company story: “Hostess … said it was saddled with costs related to its unionized workforce. The company had been contributing $100 million a year in pension costs for workers; the new contract would’ve slashed that to $25 million a year, in addition to wage cuts and a 17 percent reduction in health benefits.” (The company was “saddled” with treating its employees properly?) So the blame for Hostess going out of business is unionization, right?
Next paragraph: “It was revealed that nearly a dozen executives received pay hikes of up to 80 percent last year even as the company was struggling.”
In reality, not increasing taxes on those executives, and eliminating the union, may well have resulted in the company still being in business – but with significantly reduced wages and benefits for all nonexecutive employees, no additional employees, and another 80 percent increase in pay next year for the executives. Is that really “job creation”?
November is National Home Health Month. It is an opportunity to salute the very special people who work tirelessly in this field to provide medical care and support to our Greatest Generation.
These home-health professionals serve their patients in the comfort of the patients’ homes – often driving long distances to assist them. Home health provides a range of skilled nursing services for home-based patients with the goal of returning the patient to independent living.
As administrator of Harden Home Health Kansas, I would like to say “thank you” to home health professionals for the important work that they do each and every day.
Life is a lesson
Thank you, David P. Rundle, for your recognition of Jim Boyce (“State’s disability-rights movement lost leader,” Nov. 20 Opinion). I first met Boyce in 1979 when I graduated from Wichita State University and began working at the Timbers. His never-ending drive for independence had just received a big boost: He was living in his own apartment. We worked in tandem to design, improve and practice use of his communication board. Communicating with Boyce could be exhausting. It was part labored speech and part pointing at words with his limited range of motion. When things broke down, he was always up for “20 questions.”
Boyce insisted that he be understood. Not sort of understood – exactly understood. He also wanted to make sure he understood others. When that connection was made, he would light up – as we shared a thought, an emotion, a belief, a dream.
In Boyce’s life is a lesson for us all. Never allow barriers to keep us from communicating about that which is important. And be ready for every conversation to be important.