Crime & Courts

5 people seeking judgeships in Sedgwick County take part in forum

Judges have to follow the law. They can’t let their personal feelings affect their decisions. They have to be fair.

That was the common response at a forum Thursday night involving five Republicans running for three Sedgwick County District Court judgeships.

The forum was hosted by the Kansas Republican Assembly at Mike’s Steak House on South Broadway. The candidates: incumbent Judge Phil Journey and attorney Linda Kirby, running for the Division 1 seat; attorneys Dave Dahl and Faith Maughan, who wasn’t able to attend the forum, in Division 2; and attorneys Stephen Ternes and David Calvert, running for the Division 20 seat.

When the candidates introduced themselves, Journey said he had been involved in the Republican Party for years and had served in the state Senate. He said he is experienced and fair.

Journey’s opponent, Kirby, said she is a newcomer to politics, has been an attorney in Wichita for 23 years and is a former law school teacher. She said she has a knowledge of business and finance that lends itself to many civil matters that come before courts. Also, she said, “We don’t have any women judges in Sedgwick County.”

Dahl said he has practiced law for 35 years and has taught entrepreneurship. He said he has wanted to be a judge for years, but delayed seeking the office because he was busy helping to raise children. Now, he said, being a judge would allow him to serve the public.

Campaign literature for Maughan touted her as a “constitutional conservative veteran with her roots in small-town Kansas.” The literature said she had experience as a judge, prosecutor and U.S. Army JAG corps lawyer.

Ternes said he has been a lawyer for 21 years and running for judge “is the right thing for me to do at this time.” His opponent, Calvert, is a former judge who went into private practice for his family’s sake but wants to serve again as a judge now that his children are grown and he has grandchildren. He said his experience is strong. “I’ve just done everything,” he said.

One question posed by the audience: What do candidates think about “judicial activism”?

Ternes said judges have to follow the law and interpret it as best as they can. Calvert agreed that judges have to follow the law and said judicial activism goes beyond following the law. One person in the audience, interjected: “Amen to that.”

Journey said judges are arbiters who must decide whether the burden of proof has been met and what the remedies should be. Kirby said, “I’m a judicial conservative” and that a judge’s job is to understand the law as written by the Legislature.

Dahl said a judge must arbitrate, not advocate, not give opinion, that a judge must follow the law regardless of his personal opinions.

Some of the candidates noted that if people are unhappy with judges, they can vote them out of office. “You should be the one to throw that judge out,” Dahl said, drawing some of the loudest applause of the night.