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Supreme Court converts magistrate position to district judge division in ...

TOPEKAChief Justice Marla Luckert has signed an order creating a new district judge division in the 17th Judicial District effective July 10.  
Administrative Order 2022-JA-060 converts district magistrate judge position number 5 in Phillips County into new district judge division number 2, also located in Phillips County.  
The 17th Judicial District is composed of Decatur, Graham, Norton, Osborne, Phillips, and Smith counties.  
Before the order takes effect, the district has one district judge division and six district magistrate judge positions. After, it will have two district judge divisions and five magistrate judge positions.  
Rationale for change 
Luckert said the Supreme Court considered many factors when it decided to convert the magistrate judge position in Phillips County to a district judge division, including caseload data, population, attorney registration figures, and the distance between Phillipsburg and other county seats within the judicial district.  
“We continually evaluate case filings and judge workloads to verify our courts are able to quickly and effectively process cases in service to our communities,” Luckert said. “We appreciate the Kansas Legislature also recognized this change was necessary and provided funding to support it.” 
The 17th Judicial District is one of three six-county districts with only one district judge division. The 12th and 24th judicial districts are the other two. 
District judge role 
The current distribution of judges in the six-county 17th Judicial District is one district magistrate judge position per county and one district judge division for the entire district. By statute, some cases must be heard by a district judge, so scheduling proceedings, hearings, and trials has become increasingly difficult for one district judge to manage.  
The one district judge in the 17th Judicial District is also the district’s chief judge, a situation that also exists in the 12th and 24th judicial districts. A chief judge has, in addition to their judicial responsibilities, general control over case assignments within the district, as well as general supervisory authority over the administrative and clerical functions of the court. 
Authority and timing for change 
Kansas law allows the Supreme Court to convert a magistrate judge position to a district judge division if it is deemed necessary to effectively expedite the business of the district court. The conversion can occur when a magistrate judge dies, resigns, retires, or is removed from office.   
Judge Paula Hofaker has given notice she will resign from district magistrate judge position number 5 in Phillips County effective July 8.  
Filling new district judge division  
The newly certified district judge division will be filled in the manner provided by state statute for filling judge vacancies in the 17th Judicial District.  
District judge eligibility requirements  
State law requires district judges to be:  

  • at least 30 years old; and 

  • a lawyer admitted to practice in Kansas and engaged in the practice of law for at least five years, whether as a lawyer, judge, or full-time teacher at an accredited law school.   

The person selected to fill the new district judge division created by Administrative Order 2022-JA-060 must live in Phillips County at the time of taking office and while holding office.