Court of Appeals Judge Steve Leben receives American Judges Association honor
Friday, December 29, 2017
Posted by: Ryan Purcell
TOPEKA — Judge Steve Leben of the Kansas Court of Appeals has received the American Judges Association's highest award for contributions to the judiciary.
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Leben is the 2017 recipient of the Chief Justice Richard W. Holmes Award of Merit, named for the late Kansas Supreme Court chief justice who was one of the founders of AJA.
Leben was recognized for his national work promoting procedural fairness in court; as co-author of AJA white papers on procedural fairness and the mental aspects of judging; and as longtime editor of Court Review, the AJA's quarterly journal.
Recognition of Leben's efforts in procedural fairness also came in 2014, when he received the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence from the National Center for State Courts.
"I’m proud of the work I’ve done on procedural fairness — making sure that the people who come through our courts feel that they were listened to and treated fairly and with respect," Leben said.
He has worked regularly on that issue since 2007, when he and Minneapolis trial judge Kevin Burke wrote the American Judges Association’s white paper urging more efforts in that area by all judges.
"Since then, I’ve spoken to judges in more than 20 states in judicial-training programs," Leben said.
The award also recognizes Leben's 20-year contribution to Court Review. He is stepping down from the job of editor; the fourth-quarter issue of 2017 is his last.
Leben took on the role of editor five years after becoming a district judge in Johnson County. When he was appointed to the Kansas Court of Appeals in 2007, Leben was serving as president of AJA.
Court Review, Leben said, "contains articles intended to help judges do their jobs better, both in terms of on-the-bench performance and in having more background knowledge about social-science research that’s important background for many court proceedings."
"In that role, I’ve helped to recruit some of the leading researchers in the social sciences to make their work more accessible for the judicial audience," he added. "We need solid background information on things like drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence, and criminal recidivism. We also always need help in legal writing and effective communication — topics we regularly cover. By editing that journal, I’ve been able to learn from some of the nation’s leading experts and help educate America’s judges."
The Holmes award was presented at AJA’s annual educational conference earlier this year in Cleveland.
"I appreciated the recognition of work in trying to improve court fairness and trying to help educate America’s judges about key issues. I hope to continue efforts in both areas," Leben said.
Holmes, who served on the state's highest court from 1977 to 1995 and was chief justice from 1990 to 1995, received AJA's Award of Merit in 1992. It was renamed in his honor in 2000, a year after he died.
Kansas Court of Appeals Judge Patrick McAnany also received the award in 2013 for his work on the Kansas Blue Ribbon Commission, which conducted an intensive review of state court operations and structure with the goal of improving the way Kansas courts serve its residents.