State twice reprimands judge
One order says Rebecca Pilshaw mishandled a probation case; the other involves the filing of motions.
A Sedgwick County district judge has received a public reprimand from the state.
Judge Rebecca Pilshaw received two cease-and-desist orders from the Commission on Judicial Qualifications over ethical complaints.
One determined that she mishandled a probation case for a key witness in a murder case that was later dismissed.
Pilshaw did not contest either of the anonymous complaints.
"She believes that it is the Commission's job to interpret and apply the Canons of Judicial Conduct to specific fact situations," Pilshaw's lawyer, Steve Joseph, said in an e-mail statement Tuesday. "They did in these two cases, and if these situations arise again in the future, Judge Pilshaw will be very careful to conform her conduct to the interpretations given by the Commission."
One order concluded Pilshaw improperly held an informal probation hearing for Kenneth Junious, a key witness in a 2005 murder case.
The complaint had been spurred by a report published in The Eagle about the dismissal of murder charges against Surgio Johnson on the eve of his trial.
Pilshaw had met with Junious at police headquarters to assure him she'd follow the state's recommendation for probation if he testified against Johnson.
A judge later ruled Junious' testimony inadmissible, and the state dropped the charges against Johnson.
The order determined Pilshaw held an "informal" probation violation hearing that should have been heard in a public courtroom.
The commission also determined Pilshaw erred "by participating in a closed meeting that could, in reasonable minds, undermine public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."
The other order involved the judge not allowing a motion by a man convicted of kidnapping to be filed in the public court file.
Pilshaw, "in this instance, followed an alternative procedure in which she apparently received the merits of motions in order to determine whether the motions should be filed with the clerk of the district court," the commission wrote.
Motions are usually filed with the clerk before a judge hears them. "These are both procedural violations that judges are sensitive to," Joseph said on the judge's behalf.
Pilshaw is the third Sedgwick County District Court judge to receive the rare public orders during the past year, and the first to receive two.
Judges Warren Wilbert and Richard Ballinger received orders last March and April that said they improperly fraternized with courthouse employees.
By comparison, four such orders were issued in Kansas in 2004, and all were private.