I would like to respond to the “study” compiled by the Wichita and Sedgwick County Domestic and Sexual Violence Community Safety Assessment Report (“Study: Get more cops, 911 staff, court security to fight domestic violence,” Jan. 25 Eagle).
To begin with, I would like to question the study as to why the court charged with implementation of the protection laws was not consulted on the issues regarding court security and the judges who preside over the hearings on the protection orders.
I am one of the judges that preside over the protection hearings. My personal resume is that I served in the District Court for 25 years. Two of the fellow judges that serve with me are retired District Court judges as well, serving for about the same number of years as I have. That translates into over 70 years of judicial experience between the three of us.
My personal experience is that I was appointed chairman of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Victim’s Rights by Attorney General Robert Stephan to research and make recommendations about the way victims should be treated and safeguarded in the judicial system in the cases in which they have been victimized. Our Task Force was able to recommend and obtain an amendment to the Kansas Constitution (Article 15, Section 15) that protects victims and provides that the courts must accord protections during the complaint, arrest, prosecution, trial and post-trial phases of the proceedings. I served on the board of directors of the National Organization of Victim’s Assistance (NOVA) which is a national organization of caregivers, law enforcement, prosecutors and courts that advocated for domestic and criminal victims. Additionally, I personally appeared before the Wichita City Counsel to request the establishment of an ordinance to require mandatory arrest on domestic violence calls if there is any evidence of injury, which law is in effect today.
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Prior to my serving on the District Court, I was a prosecutor for the city of Wichita and was judge of the city of Wichita Municipal Court. Fifteen of the 25 years I was on the District Court, I was presiding judge of the Family Law Court that is assigned family matters concerning divorce and child custody. I was recipient of the Chief Justice Warren E. Burger “Healer’s” Award by the National Council of Children’s Rights.
Taking into account the background and experience of myself and the other judges that hear the protection cases, the allegation that our serving in that capacity “defies logic” indicates why the study should have involved the District Court for input and not just random observation from persons and organizations that have some idea of how the system works overall. All of us abhor violence to women and children and all members of this community and do our best to address those matters in the legal system. I am happy that the issue has been addressed by the study, however, I do feel that it is incomplete without the court sharing its experience.
James G. Beasley