Archive for Thursday, July 3, 2008

Judge accused of misconduct

July 3, 2008

Leavenworth County District Court Judge Frederick N. Stewart faces an official inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct involving a former member of his staff.

It's a charge Stewart plans to address, according to his lawyer, Michael Gibbens.

Gibbens told the Associated Press, "We strongly deny the charge, and we look forward to the opportunity to presenting our side of the case to a full and fair hearing."

The Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications on Monday issued a notice of formal proceedings outlining the allegations and giving Stewart 20 days to respond.

The complaint alleges that beginning in approximately 1999, Stewart "engaged in inappropriate conduct" toward the aide, "consisting primarily of harassing conduct, which included inappropriate touching, sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature."

From 1999 through 2007, the complaint alleges, "the inappropriate conduct proceeded from the stage of being principally verbal or non-physical to being physical, including in the later years physical touching of a sexual nature or sexual physical acts such as attempted kissing and gradually increasing to more serious sexual contact in later years, particularly in 2007."

Stewart also is accused of shirking his oversight duties related to administrative treatment of the aide. Stewart, the complaint alleges, "did not require adherence to employment policies concerning required presence on the job and at the job, or in the alternative, did not seek any consequences or discipline for failure of (the aide) to adequately or properly discharge the duties of a judicial branch employee when such were reasonably deserved and/or did not provide objective employee job performance ratings when required."

The former employee initially was hired as a records clerk in September 1995. In September 1998, she became an administrative assistant in Stewart's office and was fired Dec. 15, 2007, according to Ron Keefover, a spokesman for the Kansas Judicial Center. He said he did not have record of why she was terminated because it was a confidentiality matter.

In addition, Keefover said he did not have information regarding how the filing was brought about.

After the 20-day response period ends, the commission will conduct a public hearing on the issue.

Keefover said if the commission, following the hearing, finds a violation of the canons and recommends discipline, the matter will be sent to the Kansas Supreme Court for a final decision.

Keefover said the allegations would not preclude Stewart from hearing cases while the proceedings are under way.

Stewart has been on the bench since January 1977.

- Tonganoxie Mirror news editor Shawn Linenberger contributed to this story.


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