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Archive for Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Administrative changes in judiciary announced

December 19, 2001

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Douglas County District Chief Judge Mike Malone doesn't want to be chief anymore.

After 12 years of what Malone described as a "mixed bag of highs and lows," he asked the Kansas Supreme Court not to reappoint him to the administrative judge's position.

The court has agreed, and District Judge Robert Fairchild has been appointed to replace Malone on Jan. 1 when Malone's latest two-year appointment to the position will end.

"I think 12 years is enough," said Malone, who for the past year has had to deal with a shrinking court budget because of reduced state funding. "I feel like I've served my district and it's someone else's turn. I look forward to getting back to just judging."

Fairchild commended Malone for his efforts as administrator. Fairchild said he was asked by the Supreme Court if he would serve if appointed and agreed.

"I'm honored to be appointed, but it's going to be a lot of hard work," he said. "It's a thankless job."

Malone made his request in Nov. 29 letters to Chief Justice Kay McFarland and Justice Bob Abbott, departmental justice for the Douglas County area.

In a statement released Tuesday, Abbott said he was sorry Malone didn't want to continue as administrator. The justice also praised Malone for working well with other judges on numerous court projects.

Normally chief judges are selected based on seniority. Fairchild has less seniority than the other judges, Jean Shepherd, Jack Murphy and Paula Martin.

Murphy said he was asked by the Supreme Court to be administrator but didn't want the job. Shepherd declined to comment. Martin was presiding over a trial Tuesday and unavailable for comment.

Both Murphy and Shepherd said they believed Fairchild would do a good job, and they commended Malone.

Malone said he won't miss dealing with increasing budget problems at a time when the 7th Judicial District's caseload has grown by 56 percent in fewer than 10 years. At the same time, he said he wasn't going to stop speaking out about the need for additional financial support for the court system.

"The strains that are being placed on this judicial district are not being seen by the public," Malone said. "I've been lucky enough to have a great support staff who do a super job of managing the court system with less-than-desirable staffing and budgets."

"We're just going to have to do the best we can," Fairchild said of dealing with court finances. "It's a time of crises for the courts."

Fairchild said he planned no changes to the current court management staff.

Malone was appointed district judge in 1982 after nine years in the Douglas County District Attorney's Office, first as an assistant prosecutor and then as the district attorney.

Fairchild was appointed judge in 1996 after 23 years in private practice as a shareholder and attorney for Riling, Burkhead, Fairchild and Nitcher. He also served as Douglas County counselor for several years.

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