Posted By Natalie G. Haag,
Thursday, September 10, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, December 09, 2015
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The politically controversial yet legally significant decisions issued this summer involving gay marriage and school funding have triggered my desire to stand on my soapbox and rant a little about access to justice.
Google "access to justice” and you will find a long list of organizations and bar committees promoting such access. Included among that group is the U.S. Department of Justice, which established the Access to Justice Initiative (ATJ) to address what the agency referred to as "the access-to-justice crisis in the criminal and civil justice systems.” The ATJ mission is to "help the justice system efficiently deliver outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth and status.” This definition resonates with me in the debate about our independent judiciary and the funding of our courts because the key terms are "fair” and "accessible to all.”
In my opinion, fair courts are those not driven by a particular political agenda and those not worried about pleasing a particular constituency. Because a fair court is open to listening to all the parties and deciding cases based upon the letter of the law and not popular opinion, the United States judicial system has rendered some controversial decisions. In hindsight most, if not all, of the decisions are lauded as brave and fair, but at the time they were issued, the same may not have been said. We should contemplate our country today without some of those polarizing decisions: Griswold v. Connecticut, Miranda v. Arizona, Gideon v. Wainwright, and Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. We might all pick a different set of cases but the point is the same—politically drafted laws and public opinion polls are not always fair and just for all the citizens of our country.
"Accessible to all” requires sufficient judges and court personnel to process and hear legal matters. Access irrespective of wealth and status would require a system where litigants aren’t required to pay for each motion filed or a system that can be accessed without paying an exorbitant filing fee. As the Kansas Legislature continues to push for the judiciary to find ways to fund itself, increasing filing fees will be required. Currently a person earning minimum wage would need to spend half a week’s wages to pay the filing fee for a Chapter 60 case. Not only should our courts be fully funded but access to justice for all also requires the funding of organizations like the Board of Indigent Defense Services and Kansas Legal Services.
The political rhetoric that follows a controversial decision, like "activist judges” or "legislators in robes,” demonstrates the very sentiment that works against fairness in our judicial system. This rhetoric suggests judges must agree with popular opinion or the politician’s opinion of an issue at all times or the judge isn’t acting properly. Is it truly the right standard? Is our goal to let every citizen appear before a judge who will agree with that citizen? This is hardly a realistic view since court cases are generally contested. Of course, I might agree with this standard if all the judges agreed with my opinions, but I’m sure that doesn’t seem very fair to you.
Like a Lawyer
My Facebook presence is pretty non-existent. I check it out once every six months or so and over the last five years I’ve probably "liked” two things. But here is what I do know—I like lawyers and it seems to be a good time to remind our neighbors and communities that they like lawyers too. Please consider joining me in finding ways to remind other Kansans how much lawyers contribute in dollars, time, etc., to the community. We kicked off this effort in Topeka. As you know, lawyers deal with lots of briefs. So after a local volunteer mentioned the need to fill the donation bin with "briefs,” the Topeka Bar Association and KBA encouraged members to donate "briefs” to Let’s Help!
Lawyers are having fun everywhere
It has been a wonderful month of seeing old friends and meeting new ones. I hope you enjoy seeing some of the activities of your fellow bar members.
The Southeast Kansas bar members enjoyed an entertaining ethics presentation by Bethany Roberts and topped the day off with good food and a pleasant golf game. Thanks to Jill Gillett for adopting me as her golf cart companion for the afternoon.
Congratulations to the Wichita Bar Association on reaching its 100th anniversary and hosting a knock out celebration. Champagne, dinner, dancing, and a mini-bar show made this a night to repeat. Executive Director Karin Kirk together with an officer team lead by Jennifer Hill can plan a party for me anytime. There are lots of professional photos online and a few amateur ones included here.
For those of you who haven’t heard, Judge Richard Walker is retiring from the 9th Judicial District Court. The respect of the lawyers in that district was evident not only from the size of the lunch crowd but also from the boisterous and humorous storytelling that took place. Judge Walker had a wonderful message to share about protecting our judicial system. You should invite him to speak!
Originally published in The Journal of the Kansas Bar Association, vol. 84, no. 8, pg. 6 (September 2015).
Posted By Natalie G. Haag,
Tuesday, August 04, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, September 08, 2015
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The new officers of the Board of Governors officially take office on July 1. My first official duty is to write this column. I started by looking back at prior Kansas Bar Journal articles. In his first column as president, Jerry Green promised to be informative, enlightening, thought-provoking, and yet entertaining. He has fulfilled his promise. Jerry, thanks for a great year and your true commitment as members of the Kansas Bar, as well as the Kansas Bar Association. This is a tough act to follow. Like Jerry, I will do my best to keep you informed and to listen to your ideas. As in-house counsel, I spend a lot of time explaining legal concepts and requirements to non-lawyers. Due to the attention-span challenges that come with reading long legal explanations, I often break up the subject matter into small topic areas or focus points to help my internal audience grasp the concepts. Please accept my apology if I slip into that writing format over the next year.
What is ahead for the KBA?
This next year will be one of exploring options for the future of the KBA. As with lots of membership organizations, the KBA is constantly trying to validate its relevance to lawyers and determine what needs to be done to retain and grow membership. The basic questions haven’t changed in the last 10 years or so. How do we make our organization relevant to members? How do we attract the younger members of the profession? What services do our members want us to offer?
The KBA has started a strategic planning process chaired by Greg Goheen. We need your input. Please send ideas to Greg at email@example.com. Part of this process also involves an Annual Meeting Task Force lead by Gary Ayers. We really need to hear from those who don’t regularly attend the meetings. Gary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you miss a wonderful event? The 2015 KBA Annual Meeting with a twist!
This year a great committee worked to shake things up and create a new KBA Annual Meeting attraction. If you didn’t attend the KBA Annual Meeting you missed a fun time. Thanks to the Annual Meeting Planning Committee for a fabulous and innovative job and for all your hard work to pull together this meeting: Chair Greg Musil, Doug Patterson, Peter Simonsen, Todd Thompson, Sarah Warner, David Waters, Lisa Renee Westergaard, Amy Winterscheid, Christi Bright, BreAnne Hendricks, Chris Pickering, Geri Hartley, Harry Wigner, Judge Brenda Cameron, Judge Christina Dunn Gyllenborg, Judge David Cahill, Linda Coffee, Mark Dupree, Mike Sexton, Mira Mdivani, Mitch Biebighauser, Scott Gyllenborg, Tiffany McFarland, Toby Crouse, Andrew DeMarea, and Tracy Fredley, as well as KBA staff, Deana Mead, Anne Woods, Meg Wickham, Cassandra Blackwell, Danielle Hall, Joe Molina, and Jordan Yochim.
So what did you miss? A wonderful dinner for the Foundation, the diversity breakfast recognizing Zack Reynolds for his vision on the diversity issues, a lovely awards lunch, interesting speakers like Darryl Burton and Daniel Bowling with, of course, important CLE opportunities. In the evening the meeting took a new twist.
Check out the photos—as you can see, there was something for everyone. We enjoyed mingling with the judges and justices among the dinosaur exhibits at the Prairiefire Museum followed by fun at PinStripes. There was crazy bowling. A couple locations for bocce—inside and out on the porch. If you wanted to avoid physical activity and just talk to friends there was a quiet room full of food and drink. This was a great opportunity to network with plenty to eat and drink while enjoying friends from across the state. The young lawyers rocked the party and showed up in matching shirts. What more could you ask for in one evening? And, by the way, who knew that the Johnson County judges can really bowl! It was a great evening and I look forward to a full year of educational and fun activities with lawyers from across the state.
Originally published in The Journal of the Kansas Bar Association, vol. 84, no. 7, pg. 6 (July/August 2015).
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Posted By Gerald L. Green,
Friday, June 26, 2015
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This is my last president’s column, and I have enjoyed having a forum to write about matters of interest (hopefully) to lawyers and members of the Kansas Bar Association. I trust from time to time, some of you, at least once in a while, appreciated what I had to say. And I want to thank those of you who took the time to tell me. And for those of you who didn’t like what I had to say, didn’t agree with me, or just didn’t find it interesting, I especially want to thank you too for not pointing that out!
It has been a great privilege and honor to serve as President.
It has been a busy 12 months for the KBA, and I believe they were productive ones. It is not possible to list everything the KBA has been doing, or all changes that have occurred. But there have been many. In Law Practices Services, we launched on-demand CLE programming and conducted our second annual Solo and Small Firm Conference in May. We once again partnered with Sean Carter, one of the keynote speakers from last year’s annual meeting, for another webinar series. Our Board of Publishers selected new editors, and new handbooks are now on the way, including employment law, basic will drafting, and alternative dispute resolution, among others. The Law Office Management Assistance Program has continued to grow, as has the size of the KBA’s lending library and the number of member consultations provided.
In Public Services, the demand for public service pamphlets continues to grow, and the KBA is meeting that need. The Law Related Education Committee has put together a packet that includes lesson plans, scripts, and giveaways (including pocket Constitutions) discussing the Constitution. Those packets have been used with much success by judges, attorneys, and teachers. The "On Your Own” (high school) and "For the Record” (middle school) pamphlets have been updated, and "On Your Own” is now available in Spanish as well. Our inaugural Pro Bono Summit was held last December.
A major accomplishment was bringing Lawyer Referral Service in-house and the employment of Dennis Taylor as its director. Many positive changes have occurred as the KBA focuses on our LRS program, making it more meaningful to the public, as well as to the attorney panel members.
There are plenty of challenges ahead for our association. Challenges, however, that I am confident we will embrace and meet.
In Legislative Services, Joe Molina, our legislative services director, issues the "KBA Advocate” via the KBA weekly, every week the Legislature is in session. Joe has a blog that members can log into and read at http://www.ksbar.org/advocate. In Member and Market Services, we have seen the largest membership renewal in many years. We have added CaseCheck+, in addition to CiteCheck and Casemaker Digest to the suite of legal research software that comes free of charge with a KBA membership.
The Board of Governors created three new committees: one to look at membership, one to look at the annual meeting, and a strategic planning committee. The KBA was a member of the Judicial Evaluation Coalition that provided voter information for the most recent retention elections and conducted broad membership surveys about reasons for joining the KBA, IOLTA, and the Journal. The KBA also helped facilitate a survey regarding the state of legal education in the United States. The annual meeting format was changed last year and was held in September, rather than the traditional month of June. The annual meeting remains a focus of the KBA Board, and as mentioned above, a special committee has been formed to continue to analyze and consider its future.
The above undertakings are of course in addition to the countless other services the KBA regularly provides its members and the public. CLE remains a large part of what the KBA does, as well as lobbying and legislative services. This last legislative session was quite a challenge in light of the proposed legislation aimed at changing the method of selecting our Supreme Court justices, as well as legislation and issues surrounding the judicial budget and our courts. Many of our members testified and contacted legislators regarding specific pieces of legislation, and I thank all of you who did. I expect these issues and efforts by some in the legislature and the administration will continue and remain as issues in the foreseeable future.
My term as president has gone by fast, or at least it has for me. I can’t speak for the Board, KBA staff, or anyone else who had to put up with me during the last 12 months. It has been a great privilege and honor to serve as President. I believe the KBA is one of the best professional associations around. We are a voluntary bar. Members choose to join, and I extend my heartfelt thanks to each of you who do. I fully realize there are many places one can spend their "dues money.” There are many professional organizations we can choose to join. I am a member of several, and they are all worthwhile and important. Many compliment each other, and the KBA works cooperatively with our specialty and metropolitan bars. We should support them as well. As attorneys, we need to come together in professional associations for the good of our profession and our own professional development. If you are a KBA member, then once again, thank you. If not, I urge you to consider joining. I earnestly believe it is money well spent, and will not only benefit the KBA, but you as well.
Finally, I would be seriously remiss if I didn’t thank the many people who have provided so much help, encouragement and support during the last 12 months. I want to thank the Board for their commitment to the KBA, and their help and support during my term as president. We have an excellent Board, and there is no shortage of participation in what we have undertaken and are seeking to accomplish. I don’t recall ever asking or calling upon a board member to do something and have them say no. They spend many hours not only in attending Board meetings or participating in conference calls, but in preparing for meetings, remaining informed, and helping carry out the functions of our association.
Like any professional association, we cannot exist or function without our staff. We have one of the best. I appreciate our executive director, Jordan Yochim, and thank him for his help and assistance in so many ways. I appreciate his knowledge and information, his providing me guidance when I have needed it (which is often), and even those gentle reminders when I have not timely done something I should have done. Collectively, all of our staff is what makes the KBA what it is. They work diligently to accomplish their work, and to promote the KBA. I thank all of them for their hard work, support, and the work they do. I also want to thank our Section and Committee chairpersons for their efforts on behalf of the KBA, and want to thank the executive committee and other KBA officers. Our association is in good hands with President -elect Natalie Haag ready to assume the office of president, and with Steve Six becoming president-elect; Greg Goheen, vice president; and Bruce Kent, secretary-treasurer.
Last, but not least, I want to thank my firm for allowing me the opportunity to be away from the office a bit more than normal (OK, maybe a lot more) and my wife, Janice, who has supported and encouraged me during my term as president. There are plenty of challenges ahead for our association. Challenges, however, that I am confident we will embrace and meet. Thanks again to all who support and make the KBA the excellent professional association it is.
Originally published in The Journal of the Kansas Bar Association, vol. 84, no. 6, pg. 6 (June 2015).
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Posted By Dennis D. Depew,
Thursday, February 13, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, June 24, 2015
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In mid-December, the Court Budget Advisory Council made its report to the Kansas Supreme Court. The full report is available online at the Kansas Courts website: www.kscourts.org. Every attorney in Kansas who interacts with state courts should take the time to read the report.
The council was made up of capable and intelligent people from across Kansas. They were given the unenviable task of figuring out how to trim $8.25 million from the judicial branch’s FY2015 budget. This was one of those appointments that would lead to a big sigh of relief when you didn’t get the call from Chief Justice Nuss to participate!
Since the judicial branch budget is 96 percent salary expense for personnel, the only way to eliminate 8 percent of the total budget is to negatively impact people. The judicial branch has already been operating on a reduced budget, and fortunately (if there can be anything labeled as fortunate in the present predicament) the $8.25 million figure includes some expenditures that are not being made now. The fact remains, however, that the funding that has been approved for FY2015 by the Kansas legislature is 8.25 percent below what has been requested in a base budget request by the judicial branch.
[...] the KBA does need to carefully consider if it wants to offer its input to the judicial branch as it decides how to structure the coming furloughs.
The council’s first recommendation is to recommend the elimination of 19.5 FTE court service officer positions across the state. These positions currently perform duties that are not required by current statute. Examples of this include screening of PFA and PFS applications, conducting domestic mediations, conducting criminal history reviews prior to pleas and sentencing, to name a few. Savings equal $1.08 million in FY2015.
The next recommendation deals with the current number of authorized but unfilled staff positions across the state. This amounts to $2.5 million. These vacancies create hardship where they occur and lead to increased workloads on the staff that remains. The council recommends an increase in this number of up to a total of 120 authorized but unfilled staff positions. This will save $3.75 million in FY2015.
The third recommendation from the council is to delay by 120 days filling district judge and magistrate judge positions when they become vacant. Based on anticipated retirements of four district judges and four magistrate judges, this strategy would save approximately $440,000 in FY2015.
The final recommendation is that of unpaid staff furloughs. To reach the $8.25 million budget cut will require 12 unpaid furlough days at a savings of $250,000 per day. We have seen this strategy utilized before when there were funding and budget issues for the judicial branch. Obviously, this will have a huge impact on non-judicial employees of the judicial branch, amounting to a 4 percent pay cut. Keep in mind that these same employees have not seen a raise in a number of years and many are already actively looking for other, more stable, employment. If any of the other budget cutting strategies are not implemented, there will need to be further furloughs that will save enough money to equal the savings from the other strategies that were not used.
The KBA Board of Governors will be discussing whether or not it should weigh in on the "how do you like your furloughs” question.
So, the purpose of the title of this column now becomes apparent, as a group Kansas attorneys across the state are faced with the very real question of: "How do you like your furloughs?” There are a number of answers to this question, but the bar of Kansas and thus the KBA does need to carefully consider if it wants to offer its input to the judicial branch as it decides how to structure the coming furloughs.
In the past, furloughs were spread out among multiple pay periods and multiple months so as to not leave employees with any one period of time when they had no income. This was also done to try to minimize the impact of the furloughs on the public and business interests that use the courts on a daily basis.
Another option is not to close the courts but furlough different staff members in each court at different times. This allows the courts to stay open, but then dramatically increases the workload on everyone else in each court. In areas where courts are already understaffed due to the current backlog of authorized but unfilled positions, this practice would significantly increase the opportunity for error and delay in court operations.
Perhaps the most controversial option would be to wait until the end of the fiscal year approaches when a more exact determination of what the budget shortfall will actually be. Once that number has been determined, then the courts would just shut down for the time period required to reach the needed savings. At a minimum, if all the other savings strategies named by the council were implemented, the courts would be closed 12 days, or two-and-a-half weeks. That time period would come in June, the last month of the fiscal year. If some of the other strategies to save money were not used, then the court shutdown would have to be longer. This option is controversial because it would create chaos for individuals, businesses, law enforcement, attorneys, and any other users of the Kansas court system. On a positive note, this option would allow laid off court staff to apply for unemployment benefits since the layoff would be for a longer period. One other result of this option might be to get the attention of many Kansas legislators who seem not to have the interest or desire to properly fund the third and co-equal branch of Kansas government.
It is interesting to note that the Kansas Association of District Court Clerks and Administrators has voted to support the block furlough at the end of the year option. It is also significant that the Kansas District Judges Association has also voted to support the block furlough approach, even though the brunt of providing emergency services during the furlough period would fall on them.
At the time this column is being written, the KBA has no position on the options available to implement furloughs in the judicial branch. The KBA’s position is that the judicial branch should be funded at a minimum at the base budget request level. The reasons why the judicial branch should be funded at the enhanced budget request level are material for another column or two, as are the other longer term budget strategies that the Budget Council considered but could not recommend due to how quickly they could be implemented. These strategies are numerous and include a number of things that would significantly alter the current practice of law in the courts of Kansas. (Eliminating all court reporters is but one example.)
FY2015 will be upon us in less than five months. The KBA Board of Governors will be discussing whether or not it should weigh in on the "how do you like your furloughs” question. Please consider this column as my request that the KBA membership let its regional Board of Governors members, KBA staff, and KBA officers know how you feel regarding this issue. If, by some miracle, the legislature adds supplemental funding so that furloughs are not required, then this exercise will have been for naught. If that miracle does not materialize, then all of us will be facing the certainty of furloughs, so the answer to the question of how they are implemented is one that the lawyers of Kansas have a very real interest in.
Originally published in The Journal of the Kansas Bar Association, vol. 83, no. 2 (February 2014).
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Posted By Dennis D. Depew,
Friday, January 10, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, June 24, 2015
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In my last column, I encouraged everyone to take the next step and recognize those around you who you are thankful for and thank them for being part of your personal "good news.” As we begin 2014, I want to recognize the volunteers that do the heavy lifting and make the KBA function as well as it does. Of course, the Board of Governors and officers handle the general governance of the KBA. They are listed in the front of every Bar Journal. They do a great job of representing our diverse membership and ensure that all viewpoints are considered in the KBA decision making process.
Next, we have the Kansas Bar Foundation officers and board of trustees. They keep the KBF on track as it helps support worthwhile causes around the state. They are listed in the Bar Journal (Page 11) [at bottom right of this post].
The amount of time and quality of effort given to these groups within the KBA is simply incredible to me. It makes the job of being president seems insignificant in comparison.
The KBA and KBF also have a number of committees, task forces, and panels. Many of our general membership may not be aware of just how many there are. They and the chairperson(s) of each are as follows:
- Access to Justice: Patrick H. Donahue
- Annual Meeting Planning: TBD
- Annual Survey of Law: Hon. Steve Leben and Larkin E. Walsh
- Awards: Sara S. Beezley
- Bar Prep: Timothy O’Brien
- Bench Bar: Teresa L. Watson
- Board of Publishers: TBD
- Commission on Professionalism: Hon. Robert J. Fleming and Timothy M. O’Brien
- Continuing Legal Education: Mira Mdivani
- Disaster Response Committee: TBD
- Diversity: Eunice C. Peters and Christi L. Bright
- Ethics Advisory: J. Nick Badgerow
- Ethics Grievance: Jane M. Isern
- Federal and State Jurisdiction: Hon. Melissa T. Standridge and Hon. Kenneth G. Gale
- Fee Dispute Resolution: Hon. Kurtis I. Loy
- Investment (KBF): C. David Newbery
- Task Force for Mandatory IOLTA (KBF): Linda S. Parks
- IOLTA (KBF): Gabrielle M. Thompson
- Joint Operating Committee: TBD
- Journal Board of Editors: Richard D. Ralls
- Law-Related Education: Hon. G. Joseph Pierron Jr.
- Legislative: Melissa A. Wangeman
- Media-Bar: Prof. Mike Kautsch
- Membership: Chelsey G. Langland and Vincent M. Cox
- Nominating: Lee A. Smithyman
- Paralegals: Sharon C. Wood
- Scholarship (KBF): Katherine L. Kirk
- Standards for Title Examination: Richard L. Friedeman
Each of these committees, task forces, and panels also has other members who actively participate in the matters that come before them. The complete membership lists for each are available online through the KBA Leadership Guide at http://www.ksbar.org/aboutus.
Kansas Bar Foundation Officers
Katherine L. Kirk (Lawrence)
Edward J. Nazar (Wichita)
Laura L. Ice (Wichita)
Joni J. Franklin (Wichita)
Immediate Past President
BOARD OF TRUSTEES
John C. Brown (Hays)
Amy Fellows Cline (Wichita)
Melissa R. Doeblin (Topeka)
Gregory P. Goheen (Kansas City, Kan.)
James L. Hargrove (El Dorado)
Scott M. Hill (Wichita)
Aaron L. Kite (Dodge City)
Charles D. Lee (Hutchinson)
Kurtis I. Loy (Pittsburg)
Amy E. Morgan (Overland Park)
David H. Moses (Wichita)
C. David Newbery (Topeka)
Susan G. Saidian (Wichita)
Todd N. Thompson (Lawrence)
Kenneth W. Wasserman (Salina)
Hon. Evelyn Z. Wilson (Topeka)
Brooks G. Severson (Wichita)
Young Lawyers Representative
Margaret A. Farley (Lawrence)
Kansas Association for Justice Representative
Patrice Petersen-Klein (Topeka)
Kansas Women Attorneys
Nathan D. Leadstrom (Topeka)
Kansas Association of Defense Counsel
Sara S. Beezley (Girard)
Kansas Bar Association Representative
Bruce W. Kent (Manhattan)
Kansas Bar Association Representative
Timothy M. O’Brien (Kansas City, Kan.)
Kansas Bar Association Representative
Jordan E. Yochim (Topeka)
Manager, Public Services
Anne Woods (Topeka)
More familiar to all are the KBA Sections that are available for members to join. Each of the sections provides tangible benefits to their members that go beyond general KBA membership. They and the president of each are as follows:
- Administrative Law: Martha J. Coffman
- Agricultural Law: Aaron M. Popelka
- Alternative Dispute Resolution: Paula J. Wright
- Appellate Practice: Steven J. Obermeier
- Bankruptcy and Insolvency Law: Douglas D. Depew
- Construction Law: Rudolf H. Beese
- Corporate Counsel: Amanda J. Kiefer
- Corporation, Banking and Business Law: Michael J. Mayans
- Criminal Law: Robin Fowler
- Elder Law: Emily A. Donaldson
- Employment Law: Kelly M. Nash
- Family Law: Jennifer Goheen-Lynch
- Government Lawyers: Scott Gordon
- Health Law: Catherine M. Walberg
- Immigration Law: Matt L. Hoppock
- Indian Law: Vivien J. Olsen
- Insurance Law: Catherine M. Walberg
- Intellectual Property Law: Jason O. Howard
- Law Practice Management: Angel R. Zimmerman
- Litigation: Peter S. Johnson
- Oil, Gas and Mineral Law: Ryan A. Hoffman
- Real Estate, Probate and Trust Law: Stewart T. Weaver
- Solo and Small Firm: Calvin K. Williams
- Tax Law: Jason P. Lacey
- Young Lawyers: Jeffrey W. Gettler
The other officers of these sections are also available online in the KBA Leadership Guide. The officers of the sections rotate on an annual basis and provide section members with a great opportunity to get involved in the KBA in an area of law that is important to them. Section membership also allows other KBA members and the general public to find attorneys who practice in those areas of law by doing an attorney search on the KBA website.
In addition, we have regular contributors to the KBA Journal, such as Matthew D. Keenan, whose articles are always educational and many times outright hilarious. Larry Zimmerman’s technology column is a must read for people like me who sometimes struggle to let technology do all it can for their practice.
Hopefully, after reviewing the above information, you are now more aware of all the things that the KBA does for our kba president profession and our membership. Without all of those named above, the KBA simply would not be able to do what we do. The amount of time and quality of effort given to these groups within the KBA is simply incredible to me. It makes the job of being president seem insignificant in comparison. Everyone who is involved in any of these groups has my most sincere gratitude, respect, and appreciation for a job well done.
Originally printed in The Journal of the Kansas Bar Association, Vol. 83, No. 1, pg. 6 (January 2014).
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Posted By Dennis D. Depew,
Monday, November 25, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, June 24, 2015
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The holiday season is upon us and with it comes the time we should be giving thanks for the good things in our lives. At times, due to factors that are both beyond and within our control, the simple art of giving thanks can be somewhat difficult.
As I write this, we are just starting the third week of the federal government partial shutdown and are three days away from reaching the nation’s debt limit. We are frustrated by the impact the continuing crisis has on our fellow citizens and our own peace of mind. The entire Washington, D.C., fiasco of "government by crisis” has more than worn thin at this point as we consider the impact on our lives of the continuing political gamesmanship. As attorneys, we are used to resolving our client’s disputes one way or another, but we are accustomed to getting a resolution. As a mediator, I cringe when I watch the endless TV coverage of our elected officials baiting each other with incendiary statements that sabotage the efforts of those who think more rationally and are still trying to work for the common good. In a recent Wall Street Journal poll, 60 percent of those polled wanted to throw everyone in Washington out of office. Count me in.
Here in Kansas, as we head toward the upcoming legislative session, the future appears uncertain on issues of importance to our profession. Matters of court funding, court efficiency and flexibility, e-filing, selection of the Kansas Supreme Court, separation of powers between the judicial and legislative branches, etc., are all looming large as 2014 approaches. In our own practices and personal lives, there are always those matters that need more time, attention, and care than we are able to give them, causing further stress.
In light of all of these factors, it would be totally reasonable to simply throw up our hands and announce that there is not a lot to be thankful for in the holiday season of 2013. However, to do that would be a grave disservice to all of the good things that are present in our professional and personal lives. These are the things that we often forget and/or take for granted. These are the things that we, frankly, need to think about more often.
Here are the things that I am thankful for as we bring an end to 2013:
I am thankful for having clients who allow me to serve them. Without clients, none of us would be able to do what we have worked so hard to be in a position to do, which is assist clients with their legal needs. For me this year, having clients who have patience with my frequent absence due to association duties is especially appreciated.
We are blessed to have a hard working and diligent judicial branch, whose justices, appellate, district, and magistrate judges and employees have been working under short-staffed and difficult conditions for some time. They have had no raises and no real legislative consideration of improvements to judicial branch operations that have been identified after thoughtful consideration by independent commissions. Despite those difficulties, the work of the court system continues to get done to a degree that recognizes that the courts of Kansas as being among the highest rated court systems in the nation.
We have, overall, a group of thousands of Kansas lawyers and support staff that not only competently address the needs of clients, but also donate tens of thousands of hours annually of pro bono, civic, association, charitable, and educational work that benefit all of Kansas on a local, regional, and statewide basis. Everywhere I go, I continue to be impressed at the stories of Kansas lawyers making a real difference in the lives of fellow Kansans just because they care.
We have a hard working staff at the KBA, who are actively engaged in helping reinvent the KBA and are constantly looking at ways to improve the KBA member experience and service to our members. Those efforts involve being willing to listen to constructive criticism and be always looking for ways to do things better as the association moves forward. Our membership continues to assist in this process and offer relevant, thoughtful input.
We have a dedicated board at the KBA whose members do not hesitate to offer thoughtful input to the discussion of the issues that we face. One of my favorite quotes is that of General George Patton, who said "If everyone is thinking the same thing, then someone isn’t thinking at all.” At the KBA Board of Governor’s meetings, there is a lot of thinking going on. However, at the end of the day, the Board is able to move forward and deal with the issues at hand after all viewpoints have been considered and discussed.
I am thankful for a supportive family who puts up with my desire to serve in the KBA and the Kansas Association of School Boards, and the time away from home and office that results from this service. This extends to my office family as well, as they pick up the resulting slack that occurs in my absence.
I am thankful for the opportunity to work with other attorneys and their staff, the judges in front of whom I practice, and the court personnel that I deal with daily. For the past 30 years Southeast Kansas has been and continues to be a great place to practice law.
I am thankful for the group of friends, both personal and professional, that keeps me grounded and on track in my pursuits. Whenever I start letting the ego get a little too large, a simple reminder that it is time to go work on the Lions Club Shelter House roof or that "Topeka can wait” or "you really goofed on that one” brings me back into focus very rapidly.
I am thankful that I live in small town southeast Kansas because in this community we all have each other’s back. When our home burned a few years ago, the outpouring of immediate concern and support was beyond comprehension. Even people we didn’t know were there asking how they could help. It was more than humbling to be in a position of needing help from others and then be overwhelmed by what was offered.
Finally, I am thankful for the opportunity to serve the KBA and KASB. As a result of these opportunities, I have expanded my horizons and had the chance to meet and work with leaders in the legal and educational communities all over Kansas and across the nation. I try to act like a sponge around these people, because they have so much to share both professionally and personally and they are more than willing to do so.
So, there you have it. Despite all of the bad news that continually bombards us and elevates our stress level, all it takes is a few moments of reflection to realize that there is a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. When you are having a bad day, take just a few moments to think about all the good things in your professional and personal life. Then take the next step and recognize those around you and thank them for being part of your personal "good news.”
On both a personal and professional level, please accept my best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a happy and successful new year!
Originally printed in The Journal of the Kansas Bar Association, Vol. 82, No. 10, pg. 6 (November/December 2013).
Posted By Dennis D. Depew,
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 10, 2013
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We can all think of events in our lives that turned out "not exactly” as we expected or were led to believe. The latest example of this is the process involved in selecting the 14th Court of Appeals judge. In selling the new method of selection, we were promised by its supporters that the new process would be far more transparent than the flawed, in their opinion, Merit Selection System that has been in use for more than 50 years for the Kansas Supreme Court and was also used for the Kansas Court of Appeals until this year. In practice, the new process turned out to be "not exactly” what we were promised by those who promoted and supported it.
Perhaps the single most unsettling development of the new process was the decision to abruptly end the 32-year precedent of releasing the names of all who applied for the position. For a process that was supposed to be more transparent than Merit Selection, the decision to not release the names of the applicants was a huge step backwards for the state of Kansas. No longer does a member of the public have the ability to review the names of the applicants and develop a personal opinion regarding the nominee. Fortunately, there was broad based consensus that the person nominated was, objectively, qualified for the position. Because of the secrecy, however, there developed a sense of distrust about the entire process. The elimination of one of the most important facets of transparency in the Merit Selection process was not what most were expecting when the new process was approved. Even some who supported the new selection method were taken aback by this shocking development. Did this decision support the claims of more transparency with the new process? "Not exactly.”
Now that we know the new process is "not exactly” what was promised, the next issue becomes the continued effort to have the new process applied to the Kansas Supreme Court. Based on what we have seen, the logical answer to that question is "not exactly.” The KBA will continue its efforts to preserve Merit Selection for the Kansas Supreme Court, as well as restore Merit Selection for the Kansas Court of Appeals. We need your help in this effort.
What steps can our members take to preserve Merit Selection? That answer is easy. Because there were not enough votes to pass the proposed constitutional amendment to change the Supreme Court selection method in the Kansas House in the 2013 regular session, there was never an actual vote like the one that passed by the required two-thirds majority in the Kansas Senate. There was, however, a vote in the Kansas House on HB 2019, which was the bill that brought the new selection method to the Kansas Court of Appeals. In the vote on HB 2019, the following representatives voted against changing the selection process:
John Alcala (D-Topeka)
Stephen Alford (R-Ulysses)
Barbara Ballard (D-Lawrence)
Steven Becker (R-Buhler)
Barbara Bollier (R-Mission Hills)
Carolyn Bridges (D-Wichita)
Tom Burroughs (D-Kansas City)
Sydney Carlin (D-Manhattan)
Stephanie Clayton (R-Overland Park)
Sue Concannon (R-Beloit)
Paul Davis (D-Lawrence)
Diana Dierks (R-Salina)
Nile Dillmore (D-Wichita)
John Doll (R-Garden City)
Blaine Finch (R-Ottawa)
Gail Finney (D-Wichita)
Stan Frownfelter (D-Kansas City)
Bob Grant (D-Frontenac)
Dan Hawkins (R-Wichita)
Broderick Henderson (D-Kansas City)
Jerry Henry (D-Atchison)
Larry Hibbard (R-Toronto)
Don Hill (R-Emporia)
Dan Hineman (R-Dighton)
Roderick Houston (D-Wichita)
Russ Jennings (R-Lakin)
Jim Kelly (R-Independence)
Annie Kuether (D-Topeka)
Harold Lane (D-Topeka)
Nancy Lusk (D-Overland Park)
Melanie Meier (D-Leavenworth)
Julie Menghini (D-Pittsburg)
Tom Moxley (R-Council Grove)
Jan Pauls (D-Hutchinson)
Emily Perry (D-Mission)
Mike Peterson (D-Kansas City)
Tom Phillips (R-Manhattan)
Melissa Rooker (R-Fairway)
Louis Ruiz (D-Kansas City)
Tom Sawyer (D-Wichita)
Tom Sloan (R-Lawrence)
Patricia Sloop (D-Wichita)
Annie Tietze (D-Topeka)
Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield)
Ponka-We Victors (D-Wichita)
Jim Ward (D-Wichita)
Virgil Weigel (D-Topeka)
Brandon Whipple (D-Wichita)
Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City)
Kathy Wolfe Moore (D-Kansas City)
It is believed that Rep. John Wilson, who was absent for the vote on HB 2019, would have been a "no” vote had he been present.
All 125 members of the Kansas House will be up for election in 2014. The 51 people set out above are the reason we are not already scheduled to vote on a constitutional amendment changing the selection method for the Kansas Supreme Court. It is important that all legislators know where our membership stands on this issue, but it is critical that these 51 legislators know that the KBA membership supports their decision on the Merit Selection issue. Decisions are being or soon will be made to recruit candidates to run against these 51 legislators. Part of that decision-making process is to evaluate an incumbent’s campaign finance condition. Incumbents who have healthy campaign coffers are far less likely to draw a serious opponent than those with weak campaign finances. A critical reporting date for campaign finance is December 31, 2013. What a candidate has in his or her campaign account on that date could help determine whether that candidate will have a strong and well-financed opponent in 2014. If you support preserving Merit Selection for the Kansas Supreme Court and have the ability to financially support incumbents who have supported Merit Selection, then please consider making a donation to those incumbents sooner rather than later, so that your support is received before the December 31 reporting deadline. Remember that you can financially support any candidate, regardless if you reside in that candidate’s district.
In addition to financial support, contact incumbents who you support, and offer to assist with the campaign next summer and fall. That may include yard signs, bumper stickers, making phone calls, writing personal notes, etc. Even if you are not in a financial position to help, your time can also be a valuable addition to a campaign. Whether you support a legislator financially or otherwise, be certain that he or she knows the reason for your support. It never hurts to ask your legislator about his or her position on Merit Selection, as the "not exactly” experience we have all just lived through may have changed some minds of those who have previously supported a change in the selection process.
Merit Selection is not going away in the 2014 legislative session. The battle for the Kansas Supreme Court will be in the Kansas House. That battle will continue in the 2014 House elections. The continued independence of the Kansas Supreme Court hangs in the balance. Your efforts are appreciated.
Posted By Dennis D. Depew,
Friday, October 11, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 11, 2013
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