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District Court Judge, District 18, Division 1

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    Joni Cole

  • Phillip B. Journey

Biographical Information

What is the appropriate role of the courts in today’s society? How would you best communicate that role to improve public understanding in your district?

What are the most pressing problems facing this District court? How do you propose handling these issues?

Please address the issue of maintaining impartiality, given the need to raise funds and solicit sponsorships for political campaigns.

What, if any, steps should our state take concerning the juvenile offender population? What do you see as the root cause of Juvenile offenses? What, if any, alternatives to current practice would you consider?

What, if any, steps [will you/should our state] take concerning the overall prison population?

How can the court system address the inequalities in our justice system?

How can the court become more transparent so the public has a view of the judges’ work?

Personal Biography Joni Cole is a seasoned attorney with nearly 16 years of experience as a practicing litigator. She has handled matters of all kinds, ranging from simple traffic tickets to complex, million dollar business litigation. She is licensed in State and Federal courts in both Kansas and Missouri and has appeared in court for clients in over two dozen different jurisdictions and practiced in over 30 different areas of law. She is currently counsel for the Kansas Department of Corrections.
Campaign Phone (316) 284-7312
Campaign Email
Campaign Web Site
Education J.D. - UMKC School of Law; Master of Criminal Justice - Washburn University; Bachelor's in Adm. of Justice - WSU
Community/Public Service Lord's Diner Volunteer, Legal Aid Volunteer, PTO Member and Parent Volunteer, WFSC Member and KCFSC Board Member and Volunteer, Wichita Bar Association and Kansas Bar Association Member, WSU Alumni Association Lifetime Member, College Hill Neighborhood Assoc. Member, Member of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church
Address 250 N. Dellrose Street Wichita, KS 67208
The role of the courts has been established for hundreds of years, and is an anchor of our fundamental values in the Bill of Rights. The inherent dignity of all litigants and parties requires the arbiter to act with unquestionable integrity. Simply put, courts help people solve problems they cannot solve themselves. A judge must be clear and concise in their rulings, explaining legal concepts, in a way that is meaningful to the litigants. It’s not a one shot resolve, rather it’s only through positive practices reinforced over time that will allow perception to improve.
The volume of cases and the court’s ability to hear those efficiently and effectively is concerning, because it may mean people might feel rushed or lost in the cracks or question whether his/her case was adequately heard. It's imperative to listen to the litigants and to hear their concerns in a timely manner. There's been a degradation of civility throughout society and that appears in our courts, playing out in ways that are counter-productive to the presentation of the case. As judge, it will be my job to ensure everybody plays by the same set of rules and has a meaningful opportunity to be heard and to be speak. I will examine effective ways to improve efficiency, without sacrificing the integrity of the process, and I will work to implement those strategies in my courtroom. This year, the pandemic has further exacerbated this problem because safety must be paramount.
Everyone has their own set of values, myself included. To the extent I can set those aside to render a dispassionate ruling, based on the law and facts before me, I will. However, I will not allow my decisions to be influenced partisan politics. They don't play a strong role in my life and I can't see that changing in the future. There are plenty of people who are too often swayed by a person's view simply because they are Republican or Democrat, but I'm not one of them. I'm more concerned in doing the right thing than the politically expedient thing.
I feel close examination of the programs and services and resources available to juvenile offenders should be continuously evaluated and improved. There is no one "root cause" of criminal behavior. However, there are common or re-occuring threads in a vast majority of juvenile cases, one being the lack of a proper role model in a parent or other substitute person in a position of authority. This is the first thing I would consider in crafting a solution to keep this child from becoming a repeat offender. The goal should be to rehabilitate the juvenile and provide him/her with the best situation, and the most tools possible for positive change, and for as long as his/her needs require. Every child is unique and solutions must be fashioned individually to the greatest extent possible.
As a District Court Judge, I have no direct role regarding prison overcrowding. As a general rule, prison sentences are mandated by statute through sentencing guidelines, and I will of course, follow them. On that note, I think the State should carefully consider revamping those guidelines as there are a large number of offenders who get swept up the system for non-violent drug crimes. It should not be our nation's goal to imprison so much of our population. Serving excessive jail or prison sentences harms society without receiving much benefit overall in the long run, and only perpetuates the cycle.
Every level of the system must be examined and diversity training provided, along with training to address implicit biases should routinely occur. It starts from the bench, as the Judge sets the stage for what is to occur in the courtroom, not only making the decisions but leading by example.
Most proceedings and court records are already open to the public, and educating the public how to access those would be useful. It would also be interesting and helpful if Judges periodically held "Town Hall" type forums to not only educate, but gain feedback and perspective from the public.
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