Kansas Supreme Court suspends foul-mouthed judge from bench
photo by: John Hanna/Associated Press
BELLE PLAINE — A foul-mouthed Kansas judge accused of bigotry who cursed at courthouse employees so often that a trial clerk kept a “swear journal” documenting his obscene outbursts was on Friday suspended from the bench for one year.
The Kansas Supreme Court called Montgomery County Judge F. William Cullins’ behavior “quite troubling” while meting out a punishment that was harsher than the censure and coaching that a disciplinary panel recommended last year.
“He has intimidated and publicly humiliated court employees. He has shown bias and the appearance of bias by his insulting and careless remarks, even while on the bench and presiding over hearings. By his coarse language in the courthouse, he has sullied the dignity and propriety of the judiciary,” the court said in its decision.
The ruling is effective immediately, but the court said it would consider waiving the remaining suspension after 60 days if Cullins enters into an approved plan for training and counseling. It also ordered Cullins to pay all the costs of his disciplinary proceeding.
His attorney did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The court agreed with the disciplinary panel that Cullins’ conduct violated judicial canons of decorum, integrity and impartiality. The panel also found he harmed public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary and that his conduct exhibited unfairness and unsound character.
Cullins acknowledged during his December 2019 disciplinary hearing that he frequently cursed in his conversations with employees and attorneys, and was sometimes unprofessional in his conduct, but he insisted he didn’t abuse court staff or direct vulgar and sexist terms at female workers. He called his profanity a lifelong habit, saying he has a “salty” personality that some people see as “down to earth.”
The high court affirmed the disciplinary panel’s finding that Cullins’ use of foul, derogatory words directed at women manifested a clear gender bias.
It also addressed an instance in which Cullins was recorded in court referring to an out-of-state Black athlete as “not even a Kansas boy” and telling a Black male resident, “you’re a Kansas boy” — language that could be considered demeaning to an African American man.
Although the panel found credible Cullins’ testimony that he was referring to geographic origin and didn’t intend racial derision, it said the term could be interpreted as bias and therefore violated judicial rules. The high court agreed.
“Regardless of inflection, tone, or local custom, this court has little trouble finding there was clear and convincing evidence to support the panel’s conclusion that the statements made by (Cullins) during these bond hearings created a reasonable perception of racial bias,” according to the ruling.