TOPEKA, Kan. — The Kansas Supreme Court wrestled Monday with whether it should censure a former Wichita-area judge over allegations that he was not candid in answering questions about earlier accusations of sexual harassment and other improper conduct.
The resignation of Sedgwick County District Judge Timothy Henderson, who lost his re-election bid in the Republican primary, was effective Sunday. Because of that, his attorney, Thomas Haney, said the latest case against Henderson is now moot.
But Todd Thompson, the Commission on Judicial Qualifications’ examiner, acknowledged that while Henderson’s resignation prevents the Supreme Court from suspending him from the bench, the justices still should censure Henderson to help maintain public respect for the judiciary.
Previously, the Supreme Court suspended Henderson for three months without pay in 2015 after a commission panel concluded that he’d sexually harassed female attorneys and staff by repeatedly making offensive remarks. The panel also ruled that Henderson had improperly tried to keep an attorney from handling adult guardianship cases and inappropriately tried to get his wife a part-time job with the local school district.
In the latest case, another panel concluded Henderson “was not candid or honest” and tried to “cover” inappropriate behavior in the previous disciplinary case. Henderson still contests those findings, but Haney said censuring him publicly “would be a useless act.”
Justice Dan Biles said: “It’s sort of like you want to resign and dodge the bullet.”
Commission panels make recommendations on whether judges should be disciplined over complaints about their behavior, but the Supreme Court is the final arbiter. In Henderson’s first case, the justices opted for tougher punishment after a public censure was recommended.
Justices Eric Rosen and Lee Johnson questioned whether the Supreme Court still has authority over former judges. Rosen also questioned whether the court’s decision in Henderson’s first case was a ruling on his credibility — making the second case a repeat of the first.
“When does this stop?” Rosen said. “This could simply go on indefinitely.”
While judges in many counties are appointed, they’re elected in Sedgwick County. Henderson was first elected in 2000 and was re-elected three more times.
Thompson argued that the Supreme Court has the power to declare that someone can’t serve as a judge in the future. Haney disagreed and said voters can — and occasionally have — re-elected judges who’ve been removed.
However, Haney said of Henderson, “He’s had enough of judging.”
Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .