Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Judge to Receive National Award ; Award: Demonstrate Legitimacy, Says Judge

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Judge to Receive National Award ; Award: Demonstrate Legitimacy, Says Judge

Article excerpt

Someone whose case is in court expects the judge to be focused on his case, not signing unrelated court orders or staring at a computer screen on the bench, Kansas Court of Appeals Judge Steve Leben said this week.

Whether the judge is performing another task or only appears to be, "the people coming through the courtroom need to have the perception you are focused solely on their case," Leben said.

"What people need to believe is that the judge is a sincere person who cares about the people who come before the judge," Leben said. "You convey that by providing your full attention, by treating everyone with respect, and by making sure that people have their voices heard as they come through the court."

On Thursday, Nov. 20, Leben will receive the 2014 William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence for his work to increase the trust and confidence in courts by those appearing in court.

Leben is the first Kansas judge to receive the national award since it was established in 1996. The award is named for William H. Rehnquist, chief justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1986 to 2005.

The award is given annually by the National Center for State Courts to honor a state court judge "who demonstrates the outstanding qualities of judicial excellence, including integrity, fairness, open-mindedness, knowledge of the law, professional ethics, creativity, sound judgment, intellectual courage, and decisiveness."

In choosing Leben, the National Center for State Courts noted his work in procedural fairness, including his role as co-author of an American Judges Association white paper, "Procedural Fairness: A Key Ingredient in Public Satisfaction." Co-author Kevin Burke, a district court judge in Hennepin County, Minn., received the Rehnquist Award in 2003.

In the past several years, Leben has made presentations to judges around the United States.

The award will be presented to Leben by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. Leben was nominated for the award by Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, who said Leben "consistently demonstrates the outstanding qualities of judicial excellence that the Rehnquist award recognizes, and he has done that exceptionally well. …

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