I have filed an ethics complaint against Kansas Supreme Court Justice Donald L. Allegrucci. This complaint is on the agenda of the July 1, 2005 meeting of the Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications.
I happen to disagree with the ruling the Kansas Supreme Court made in the case cited in my complaint. I have been asked whether I would have filed the same complaint if I had agreed with the court’s ruling. The answer to that question is probably not. My level of interest would probably not be what it is. That troubles me, as we as citizens need to be watchful for these types of judicial transgressions, no matter what our political beliefs are, and not mattering whether we or the causes that we support benefit from the judge’s rulings.
I have yet to see much newspaper reporting on this. The Associated Press wrote a story based on Karl Peterjohn’s column, and the Wichita Eagle and Topeka Capital-Journal printed it, although in Wichita it was pretty far back in the paper’s pages.
The form I filed with the Commission asks for a twenty-five word statement of what the judge did that was unethical. This is what I wrote:
Justice Allegrucci is married to the Governor’s Chief of Staff. The Governor has taken a position on a case before Justice Allegrucci’s court.
For the details of the complaint, I wrote this:
In the case Montoy v. State, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius has taken a position. In an article titled “School finance plan delivered to state Supreme Court” published in the Lawrence Journal-World on April 7, 2005, she is quoted as stating “As governor, I believe the Legislature’s school funding plan is neither responsible nor sustainable. It jeopardizes the state’s finances, as well as jobs and economic growth throughout Kansas.” The legislature’s school funding plan is now before the court Justice Allegrucci serves on.
Justice Allegrucci is married to Joyce Allegrucci, who serves as the Governor’s Chief of Staff.
In the Kansas Rules Relating to Judicial Conduct, Canon 2, paragraph B states: A judge shall not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment.
Through marriage, Justice Allegrucci has a family relationship to Joyce Allegrucci. Through employment and political considerations, Joyce Allegrucci has a relationship to Governor Sebelius.
Canon 2, paragraph A states: A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
In the commentary: A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge’s ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality and competence is impaired.
Because of the family relationship to an important member of the Governor’s staff, we can never be sure whether Justice Allegrucci’s rulings are affected by this relationship. This is appearance of impropriety, if not actual impropriety.