I have filed an ethics complaint with the Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications against Kansas Supreme Court Justice Lawton R. Nuss.
I happen to disagree with the ruling the Kansas Supreme Court made in the case cited in my complaint. I have been asked whether I would have filed the same complaint if I had agreed with the court’s ruling. The answer to that question is probably not. My level of interest would probably not be what it is. That troubles me, as we as citizens need to be watchful for these types of judicial transgressions, no matter what our political beliefs are, and not mattering whether we benefit from the judge’s rulings.
The form I filed with the Commission asks for a twenty-five word statement of what the judge did that was unethical. This is what I wrote:
Justice Nuss was a member of the law firm representing a party whose case is now before his court.
For the details of the complaint, I wrote this:
In the case Montoy v. State, the Salina School District is a lead plaintiff. Justice Nuss’s former law firm previously represented and may still represent this plaintiff.
In the Kansas Rules Relating to Judicial Conduct, Canon 3E(1)(b) states that a judge shall disqualify himself or herself where “the judge served as a lawyer in the matter in controversy, or a lawyer with whom the judge previously practiced law served during such association as a lawyer concerning the matter …” This seems to apply to Justice Nuss in this case.
Furthermore, Justice Nuss’s involvement in this case raises questions of impartiality and appearance of impropriety.
Canon 2, paragraph A states: A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
In the commentary: A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge’s ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality and competence is impaired.
Because of Justice Nuss’s close association with this case, a reasonable person could conclude that the judge cannot carry out his duties with impartiality.