The Kansas Supreme Court public censured a Sedgwick County district judge on Friday for losing her temper during a 2004 trial.


The Kansas Supreme Court public censured a Sedgwick County district judge on Friday for losing her temper during a 2004 trial.

The justices censured Judge Rebecca L. Pilshaw, following the recommendation of the state’s Commission on Judicial Qualifications. They noted the purpose of judicial discipline was to maintain the “honor and dignity of the judiciary.”

“The respondent’s failure to control her temper and frustrations and her conduct toward potential members of the jury in open court greatly detracted from the honor and dignity of the judiciary,” the justices wrote. “Her actions negatively impacted the proper administration of justice in a felony criminal case over which she presided.”

Pilshaw referred questions Friday about the ruling to her attorney, Steve Joseph, of Wichita, who did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The Commission on Judicial Qualifications reviews allegations of misconduct and recommends potential sanctions to the Supreme Court, which has the final word. The court can suspend or remove a judge from the bench, or impose lesser or no punishment. Friday’s ruling amounts to a public admonishment of Pilshaw’s behavior.

The Supreme Court already criticized Pilshaw’s conduct in April 2007, when it considered the appeal of Dewey A. Gaither, the defendant in the murder case. According to the court’s account, Pilshaw yelled at prospective jurors during the first day of jury selection, after two women were removed.

Although the Supreme Court determined last year that Pilshaw’s actions constituted judicial misconduct, it upheld Gaither’s convictions. He is serving life in prison for the drug-related shooting that killed Bobby Washington, 59. He was convicted of five felonies, including first-degree murder.

According to Friday’s ruling:

One prospective juror was removed after saying she couldn’t believe anything police said. Pilshaw ordered her to attend every day of the trial so she could “be exposed more to our law enforcement personnel.”

Pilshaw then asked, “Anybody else want to mess with me?”

Later, another prospective juror said her religious beliefs made it uncomfortable for her to judge someone else.

Pilshaw dismissed the woman and turned to the remaining panel, saying: “I feel sorry for the next person that ends up going, because I am going to hit the roof, I think.”

Pilshaw later apologized, telling remaining jurors she had been “a little cranky.” She told any jurors who had been selected that they could leave if they felt intimidated, and two did. She also told the first woman that she did not have to sit through the trial.

The last time the commission sent the court a disciplinary case was in 2005. In that case, the justices followed the panel’s recommendation to remove Saline County District Judge George Robertson for viewing Internet pornography on his office computer.