Judicial panel interviews 8 to succeed Miller as judge

By Bill Felber

An eight-person panel expected by Monday afternoon to identify three finalists for the district judgeship left vacant by the retirement of Judge Paul Miller earlier this month.

The panel, consisting of both attorneys and lay persons and headed by Associate Supreme Court Justice Marla Luckert, interviewed eight candidates for the position Monday. By law, the judicial nominating panel must send the names of two to three of the candidates to Gov. Sam Brownback, who must pick one of the nominees.

That appointment is expected to be announced during the summer. Whoever is selected will join judges David Stutzman and Meryl Wilson on the bench.

The eight candidates, each of whom submitted applications for the position, are: Magistrate Judge William Malcolm, magistrate judge Sheila Hochhauser, Grant Bannister, Amy Bipes, John Bosch, Kendra Lewison, Kassie McEntire, and Phylemon Yau.

Monday’s agenda involved each of the eight making half hour presentations for the judicial selection panel essentially explaining why theirs should be one of names sent forward.

The selection panel included four attorneys — Richard Seaton Jr., Derrick Roberson, Jim Morrison, and Barry Clark. The four non-attorneys are Kyle Bauer, Steven Hargrave, Johanna Lyle, and Steven McMahon.

In their questioning of candidates, selection panelists tended to focus on topics related to experience, familiarity with the 21st judicial district and judicial temperament. Several candidates during the morning session were specifically asked what they knew about Clay County and whether they had ever been involved in a case there. The 21st Judicial District is responsible for cases in both Riley and Clay Counties.

Several questions focused on a 2007 controversy that lead to the removal by voters of a Clay County Judge by a public that perceived him to be soft on repeat offenders. Bannister, the first candidate interviewed, said he hoped that if similar controversies emerged in the district again his performance would prompt the local Bar Association to tell the public, “this is a guy who has performed adequately.”

Another focus of questioning involved gaps in the nominees’ experiences. “There will be thing which I will no be familiar, but will be eager to learn, said Bipes, an attorney in the office of the Staff Judge Advocate at Fort Riley.

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