Judging the Judges

What judges, candidates say about the survey

The Eagle gave all Sedgwick County district judges and candidates their individual evaluations and invited their feedback. Here are comments from those who responded.

Rodger Woods, Division 7 candidate: “Overall, I’m pleased with the results particularly in the areas of fairness and ethics and professionalism. I certainly appreciate the WBA and The Eagle going to the effort of conducting the survey and am certainly happy the attorneys that did rate me generally rated me as they did.”

Jon Von Achen, Division 7 candidate: “While I am surprised by the lack of response to the survey, I have been encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response I have received when speaking to the Wichita legal community in person about my candidacy. It is truly humbling to have the support of your colleagues.”

Joni Cole, Division 7 candidate: “I didn’t think there was a large enough sample size to really draw from, but the idea is great. I was disappointed that I didn’t have more responses, but I’m kind of not surprised given the nature of my practice right now.”

Scott Anderson, Division 17 candidate: “I want to thank the Wichita Bar Association and the Wichita Eagle for conducting this evaluation. I also want to thank my fellow attorneys for participating in this process and giving their feedback. I believe that fairness and equality are two of the most important traits for a good judge. Therefore, I’m happy that the attorneys that I’ve worked with agreed that I am fair and that I treat people fairly regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation. In looking at the other responses, I’m also pleased to see that the attorneys I’ve worked with feel that I am ethical, professional, respectful, and courteous. Lastly, I look forward to the opportunity to take the responses I’ve received here and use them to grow both as an attorney and hopefully as a judge for Sedgwick County.”

Linda Kirby, Division 17 candidate: “I have made it my mission, if I am elected, to be the best judge I can be. I have worked since the evaluation of the judges in 2016 to improve my performance and am pleased that my scores have improved in each and every category, by as much as 16 percentage points in two instances, ‘Is ethical’ and ‘Demonstrates a fair work ethic,’ by 13 points in ‘Is fair’ and by 11 points in ‘Demonstrates knowledge of the law.’ Importantly, I wrote a personal letter to virtually all the members of the Wichita bar asking for their guidance, their suggestions and their wisdom to help me be prepared to serve should I be elected. To my knowledge no candidate has ever before reached out in a sincere effort to tap into a vast collective wealth of legal experience and knowledge of those who practice before the court. As I stated in my letter, I intend to take to heart their advice and I will continue to work to improve my knowledge, performance and understanding of all areas of the practice of law. My ultimate goal is to become not only a better attorney but also better person.”

David Lowden, Division 17 candidate: “I am greatly pleased by the results, which are consistent with how I hoped I would be evaluated by the attorneys, former/retired judges, and judges in the Wichita Bar Association. Although I’m a bit disappointed that more attorneys did not participate in the evaluation process, the results are still indicative of the quality of my work. In addition to working hard for 26 years to be a highly-skilled and knowledgeable attorney in the district and appellate courts, I have endeavored to treat judges and opposing attorneys with a great deal of respect while attempting to ensure that cases are legally and ethically prosecuted. It appears that I have been successful in doing so, as reflected by the ratings. Those who have positively evaluated me know that I will bring the same approach to the bench, should I be elected the District Court Judge in Division 17.”

Richard Paugh, Division 17 candidate: “Sixty-six percent of each one of my responses were favorable and a third were not. I have an old attorney friend of mine who always said a third of the people are going to like you, a third aren’t going to like you and a third aren’t going to care at all.

I think that most people that have worked with me think that I’m a fair person and that if I was elected judge that I’d be fair and impartial and do a good job at it.”

David Dahl, judge: “I believe the judges in Sedgwick County are hardworking and very conscientious. But, like virtually every profession, there is always room for improvement. The attorneys in Kansas are very busy, and it was thoughtful of them to take the time to provide their thoughts as to how we can do a better job as judges. We all take their suggestions to heart, which should result in an even more positive experience for litigants and attorneys in the coming years.”

Tyler J. Roush, judge: “I am honored that, once again, my colleagues gave me the strongest evaluations in the areas of fairness and ethics. These are the two most important areas for a judge, and I strive to exceed expectations in those areas. I am honored to serve the citizens in this position and will continue to deliver the high quality of work that our community deserves. Thanks to the Eagle and the Wichita Bar for conducting this evaluation, as it is the only useful feedback the community receives regarding which judges are performing at a high level.”

Seth Rundle, judge: “People differ about the value of anonymous surveys. To the extent the results are considered reliable and useful, the Bar could ask the roughly 50 judges in the municipal, district, and federal courts of Sedgwick County to anonymously rate the attorneys who appear before them. It would be a benefit to the consumer of legal services to know an attorney’s general reputation with the bench before writing a $5,000 retainer check. I think the judge survey does have some value, but it would benefit from a quality control mechanism to confirm if a rater actually practices in front of the rated judge. However, that would require unmasking the identity of the rater to a quality control team, and many attorneys would be reluctant to give even the most well-deserved negative rating if their anonymity were at risk. I do not participate in this survey, so none of the ratings of any of the judges, including my own, are mine. As a final note about anonymous rating of attorneys by judges to be published in The Eagle: it is never going to happen.”

Kevin Smith, judge: “Only 20 attorneys rated me, nonetheless, I will strive to be a better judge.”

Stephen Ternes, judge: It is a privilege to serve my fellow Sedgwick County residents. I will use these results to guide my on-going efforts to provide the best possible service in my courtroom.