Professor led campaign to remove judge

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Involvement helps inform local and state politics

By Forest Lassman

Photo by Julia Larberg
Photo by Julia Larberg

flassman@jccc.edu


For the past few months, Brian Baumgardner has worked to remove Johnson County Judge Kevin Moriarty.

His campaign to remove Moriarty started as part of a movement to remove members of the Kansas Supreme Court. On July 25, the court overturned the death sentences and three of the four capital murder convictions for Reginald and Jonathan Carr. The murder took place 14 years ago, and many were upset that the brothers had to be re-tried.

Baumgardner wanted to inform others about the two Supreme Court judges who were up for re-election on Nov. 4. With others, he formed the group pink slips for dishonorable judges.

On Oct. 8, Moriarty issued an order to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. After the ruling, Baumgardner and the group decided to focus on the “stinker” Moriarty.

Baumgardner’s issue with the order was that it broke the judicial line of command.

“It was anti-constitutional. He’s a judge, he knows better,” said Baumgardner. “This is a guy that’s got a long history of dishonorable behavior unworthy of a judge.”

One of the “dishonorable behaviors” cited by Baumgardner was the charge that Moriarty masturbated during a 2007 divorce he mediated. These charges were filed in 2009, but have since been dropped. The accuser, Kimberly Ireland, later issued an apology, saying the claims were false.

Baumgardner is married to Molly Baumgardner, associate professor and adviser to ECAV Radio and JCAV-TV, and is also a state senator. While she did not help lead the movement to remove Moriarty, she still finds that the judge overstepped his boundaries as a judge.

“They’re suppose to rule impartially based on the state law and the state constitution, and I don’t think he did that,” she said.

To spread the word, Brian Baumgardner used social media. He set up websites and used Facebook to spread the word. He also gave interviews to various media outlets, such as the Kansas City Star.

Despite these efforts, the two Kansas Supreme Court justices and Moriarty were retained.

Baumgardner does see ways he could have run the campaign against Moriarty better.

“[I would] probably explain that [the campaign against Moriarty] had nothing to do with his current action. We’ve felt that he has been a long-time embarrassment to Johnson County’s judicial system,” said Baumgardner.

“If I learned anything from this experience, it is that judicial selection in the state of Kansas needs to be re-addressed,” he said.

Baumgardner thinks the current retention system is too easy on judges, citing the high retention numbers.

“No judge in the 57 years of Kansas statutes since the retention law came in, has ever not been retained. Not one. There is an instance [Richard Greene in 2012] whereby when they couldn’t get the dead man off the ballot because of statutes. A dead judge got retained,” he said.

On Nov. 18 the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that Moriarty was within his right to issue the order, allowing same-sex marriages in Johnson County.

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