Friday, February 26, 2021
The Kansas Supreme Court has suspended a judge for F-bombing court employees.
From the findings of the panel of the Commission on Judicial Qualifications
Respondent frequently used the word 'fuck' and its derivatives when speaking to or near employees and/or others at the courthouse.
Lance Carter served as a district court clerk in Independence for nearly 12 years. Mr. Carter regularly overheard Respondent's use of obscenities. He created a swear journal documenting multiple instances of Respondent's profanity. Mr. Carter did not intend the swear journal to document all of Respondent's profanity.
Mr. Carter received an unsatisfactory performance evaluation from a supervisor in August 2015. When Mr. Carter asked Respondent to discuss the evaluation, Respondent called Mr. Carter into Respondent's office and said, 'Carter, go sit down in that fucking chair and don't you say a fucking word.' Respondent proceeded to yell and scream at Mr. Carter, using profanity.
Respondent did not give Mr. Carter an opportunity to address Mr. Carter's concerns about the evaluation. When Mr. Carter tried to speak, Respondent told him, 'Keep your fucking mouth shut. You don't have the right to defend yourself here. Don't say another fucking word. Go see Joni Pratt. Get the fuck out of my sight and shut the fucking door on your way out.' Mr. Carter left the room.
Ms. Platt had this encounter over a question she had asked the judge about a courthouse remodeling project
In response to Ms. Pratt's question, Respondent became 'very angry' and told Ms. Pratt that 'he didn't give a fuck about the carpeting and that that wasn't our fucking building' and that she should call the city manager. Ms. Pratt described Respondent's tone as frightening, loud, aggressive and scary.
In June 2018, Joni Pratt resigned from the clerk's office. She asked Judge Gettler to accompany her to Respondent's office as she tendered her resignation. After she told Respondent that she was giving two weeks' notice of her resignation, she left the office and started walking down the hall. Ms. Pratt heard Respondent yell 'Yahoo.' Judge Gettler heard the outburst. The Panel finds that Respondent knew or should have known that his comment would be overheard by Ms. Pratt and others.
Former Attorney General Curt Schneider, now a lawyer practicing in Coffeyville, heard Respondent use the terms '"bitch", "cunt", et cetera' in referring to females.
Tim Emert, a lawyer from Independence, heard Respondent's use of obscenities so regularly that it was 'just routine.' Mr. Emert heard Respondent use the words 'bitch' and 'cunt' in describing females. Mr. Emert also heard Respondent use both of these words in the same sentence in talking about the same women.
Respondent's behavior, as established by the Stipulations, Findings, and Conclusions, has been quite troubling. He has intimidated and publicly humiliated court employees. He has shown bias and the appearance of bias by his insulting and careless remarks, even while on the bench and presiding over hearings. By his coarse language in the courthouse, he has sullied the dignity and propriety of the judiciary.
In mitigation, Respondent offers that he is efficient and fair in his hearings. He does not mean to hurt or harm. He is just "salty."
We conclude an appropriate discipline in this case is Respondent's suspension from sitting as a judge for one year. If Respondent wants us to consider a shorter suspension, he must formulate a plan that will address appropriate counseling and training for Respondent. Counseling must be more frequent than quarterly and should address more than "professional coaching." Training should include instruction on best practices for working with fellow employees, especially those one supervises, and also include workplace issues of harassment, retaliation, and hostile environment. The completed plan must be approved by the Office of Judicial Administration's Director of Personnel, currently Allyson Christman, before it may be presented to this court for consideration. If, after consideration, we approve the plan, then part or all of Respondent's suspension beyond 60 days will be stayed during compliance with the plan.
Successful completion of the plan must be certified by the OJA Director of Personnel. If that certification occurs, Respondent's successful completion of the plan, along with the days of suspension served, will be considered by us for possible waiver of Respondent's remaining suspension.