After slightly more than two months as a federal judge, U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum gave a short-winded summation Monday of his experiences on the bench: fascinating, frustrating and satisfying.
However, in a self-effacing speech to fellow Lawrence Rotary Club members at the Lawrence Holidome, Lungstrum made no allusions to being knowledgable about his new post.
"I think it's a bit presumptuous of me after two months in a different career to be asked to come to speak to you as if I know anything," he said, peppering his speech with jokes as the Rotarians finished their lunches.
A long-time Lawrence resident and lawyer, Lungstrum devoted the meat of his speech to answering the questions he is asked most frequently about his new position.
HE WAS APPOINTED by the U.S. Senate on Oct. 31 to the U.S. District Court in Kansas.
Lungstrum said he frequently is asked about the view from the opposite side of the bench after years as a lawyer.
"First of all, it's fascinating to see other lawyers work, to see how they do things and they approach things," he said.
However, being a judge still affords some of the same opportunities to learn about how other people work and live.
"As a judge, you're constantly having to learn about how somebody's business operates or about someone's job, and that presents some challenges."
It's equally difficult to remain impartial, he said.
"It is sometimes frustrating, because you have to curb that tendency to want to be an advocate, the urge to say, `Ask this question,' or `Make this point,'" he said.
"I'M HAVING to learn how to have a poker face after years of sitting in the courtroom trying to somehow project to the jury what a dumb cluck I thought my opponent was."
But being a judge ultimately is a satisfying and enjoyable challenge because you have to figure out what the law is, he said.
"As a lawyer I had the advantage of always knowing what the law ought to be, because I knew what my client wanted to do. I just got up there and said, `Look judge, this is easy.'
"Now as a judge, the buck stops here. No more of this theoretical stuff," he said. "But it's satisfying to work with people's problems and try to get them solved."
Lungstrum said he also got a kick out of presiding over trials.
"Of course, that is the fun part," he said. "We get to put on our robes and sit up there and say, `Overruled' and `Proceed counsel.'"
AFTER WRAPPING up his short speech, Lungstrum was asked by an audience member how he reacted to Clarence Thomas' Supreme Court confimation hearings.
"Utter and abject horror," he said. "I had a very personal and intense reaction to the proceedings."
Lungstrum's confirmation process occurred at the same time as the Thomas proceedings, he said.
"I understood that I was on a low level of the system and that they would not spend much time dealing with it, but naturally I had nightmares about every past peccadillo I've ever argued."