Sedgwick County judge under state review

Published On: May 21 2014 06:19:21 PM CDT   Updated On: May 21 2014 06:22:33 PM CDT

A Sedgwick County juvenile court judge is moving to civil court. The shift comes in the midst of three complaints, including sexual harassment, against him.

Since judges are usually the ones deciding on criminal complaints, FactFinder 12 looked at how judges are held accountable.

Sedgwick County Chief Judge James Fleetwood tells FactFinder12 Judge Timothy Henderson asked to be reassigned. Fleetwood says the formal complaints against Henderson, like any complaint of judicial ethics, must be handled by a state commission.

Four female prosecutors in the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office claim Henderson made offensive sexual comments to them while at work. The other complaints include accusations that Henderson made racial and biased statements, and asked a Wichita School Board member about a job for his wife.

So who holds judges accountable?

It's the Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications. That group is looking at Henderson's case. It's made up of 15 judges and attorneys, split into two panels. The first panel meets monthly to study complaints. The second decides how complaints should be handled.

Through court paperwork, FactFinder 12 learned even the chief judge has heard "off-color or blue humor" comments of a "sexual nature" by Henderson.

We also wanted to know how often people file complaints against judges. We found since 2009, there have been 152 judicial ethic complaints. Of those, the commission found evidence in only two cases. One in 2013 and Henderson's case.

The state commission oversees more than 500 judicial positions. Nearly half are municipal judges. The seven supreme court justices also fall under the commission.

We called Henderson early Wednesday afternoon for a response but he did not call back in time for this report. The commission has not announced when it plans to give a ruling.

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says out of respect for the proceedings he will not give a statement on the case until the process is concluded.