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District Court Judge, District 23, Division 1

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  • Thomas J. Drees
    (Rep)

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 Born and raised in Hays, Kansas. I have served as a prosecuting attorney for nearly 31 years, 24 as County Attorney. I served as an associate attorney in private practice half- time the first 7 years after law school. Married to Patricia (Penka) Drees nearly 33 years now. Patricia is a nursing instructor at Fort Hays State University. Two adult children, Anne and John - who both followed their mother into teaching. Member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, Hays, Kansas.
Campaign Phone (785) 625-2471
Campaign Email tdrees@gmail.com
Campaign Web Site http://DREESFORJUDGE.COM
Education Juris Doctorate Degree - University of Kansas School of Law - 1989; Political Science Degree - Fort Hays State University - 1986; High School Diploma - Thomas More Prep-Marian (Hays, Ks.)
Community/Public Service Governor's Appointed Prosecutor to the Kansas Sentencing Commission (2007-2012); Attorney General's Appointed Prosecutor to the Kansas Sexual Violent Predator Commitment Review Committee (2011 - Present); Appointed Prosecutor to the Kansas Recodification Commission (2009-2010); Kansas Supreme Court Appointed Prosecutor to the Pre-Trial Justice Committee (2018 - Present); Kansas County and District Attorney's Association (1989 - Present), Board of Directors (2000- 2006), President (2005); Ellis County and Kansas Bar Association (1989 - Present); NW Kansas Community Corrections and Juvenile Justice Board of Directors (1996 - Present); High Plains Mental Health Center Board of Directors (2006 - Present); Court Appointed Special Advocates of the High Plains Board of Directors (1989 - 1993); Ellis County Historical Society Board of Directors (2004 - Present); BSA Troop 101 Assistant Scout Master (2009 - Present); Hays Recreation Commission Volunteer Youth Coach (2001 - 2011); Immaculate Heart of Mary Confirmation Catechist (2005 - Present); Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish Council (1992 - 1998, 2001 - 2007, 2008 - 2013).
Address 107 W. 12 St., Hays, Ks. 67601
The Judicial Branch (Courts) is one of the three independent branches of government. The role of the courts in our society is to provide a fair public forum in which the applicable laws pertaining to that particular controversy are used to resolve the issue. The ultimate goal of the litigants and the court is to achieve justice for the persons(s) in each case. The judge must be knowledgeable about the law and courtroom procedures. The judge must extend courtesy to all litigants and participants before the court. The judge must apply the appropriate law to the particular facts at issue and make a fair and just decision.

To improve public understanding and acceptance of the court, I would lead by example. As a judge, I will be thoroughly prepared on each case and each issue brought before me. I will use my 31 years of legal experience and life experience to assist the litigants, witnesses, and others who appear in my courtroom, always striving to obtain justice.
The most pressing issues facing the Kansas District Courts are a lack of personnel, resources, and funding to efficiently move cases through the judicial system. The state-wide judiciary does not have an adequate number of judges, court clerks, and staff to keep cases moving through the court at a reasonable pace. The funding for a sufficient number of judges and staff state-wide is decided by the Kansas Legislature in Topeka. It will have to be addressed in Topeka. Judges can and must participate in that discussion.

If I am elected Judge, I will faithfully and diligently perform my duties and efficiently handle the cases that come before me. I will use my 31 years of courtroom experience, including scores of jury trials, to explore innovative ways to help move litigants' cases forward expeditiously, without jeopardizing their right to a fair trial and a timely decision. I will dedicate my full time and attention to seeking justice.
Judges must maintain their independence, their impartiality, their neutrality and their integrity at all times. When soliciting political and financial support from the voting public, the candidate must be careful to always take reasonable measures to insure that all persons they deal with understand that, once elected, no favoritism will be shown to any contributor. During this campaign, I will not make any pledges, promises, or commitments that are inconsistent with my impartial performance as a judge. My independence, impartiality, neutrality and integrity cannot be bought - and it is not now, nor will it ever be, for sale!
In exercising my independence and neutrality, I can not comment on any specific case before the court, or which may come before the court. Therefore, I will speak in generalities. After dealing with juvenile offenders for 31 years, it has become apparent to me that juvenile delinquency is individual to each offender. There is no "one root cause" that leads to juvenile delinquency, and there is no "silver bullet" to solve this issue. Each juvenile offender must be looked at individually, and judged independently to make sure the amount of justice imposed by the court is appropriate for the harm done to society.

Recently, Kansas enacted Senate Bill 367 into law which attempts to approach all juvenile offenders in a "cookie cutter" manner. This approach is a disservice to each juvenile whose underlying issues differ from one offender to another. Each participant in the system, judges, prosecutors, attorneys, officers and family members, must be considered uniquely and individually.
Having had the honor of serving on the Kansas Sentencing Commission from 2007 through 2012, I fully understand how the Kansas Sentencing Guidelines were created and implemented to make prison population predictable and manageable. Prisons should not be used to "warehouse" people that the court is simply frustrated with. Prison should be reserved for violent offenders and offenders who continue to pose a threat to society. The recent implementation of specialty courts (drug, veteran, persistent mental illness) around the country are attempting to bring this philosophy to fruition. While the results so far are mixed, the specialty courts should continue to be explored to determine if they can be successful in diverting persons from our prison system who do not need to be in prison.

If elected, I will use my legal experience and life experience to look at each person being sentenced and, in accordance with the law, determine which defendants pose a danger to society, and which do not.
One of the hallmarks of American jurisprudence is "justice for all." It is the duty of judges to remain vigilant to the possibility of inequalities that may occur in the justice system that could result in justice not being achieved. If an inequality is observed that can be corrected by the court, the court should correct it. Every litigant that appears before a court has the right to expect the judge to be neutral, independent, impartial, whose integrity cannot be questioned. Proper court procedure requires a fair hearing before a qualified and independent judge who has the ability to fairly assess the merits of the case without prejudice or bias. I believe my years of experience in the law and life will allow me to be such a judge.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has forced the courts to embrace technology as never before. The use of Zoom and other teleconference platforms, which allow litigants and witnesses to appear in court without physically traveling to court, and streaming it live by YouTube and other video broadcasting platforms has increased judicial transparency. The technology exists to give each judge his own channel which allows hearings to be live-streamed to the public, making court hearings more accessible than ever before. This allows victims, family members and other interested persons to only take the necessary time to view the hearing, and not have to travel to and from the courtroom. Judges should work with the Office of Judicial Administration (OJA) and the Kansas Supreme Court to continue to embrace this technology after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. If elected, I would encourage OJA and the Supreme Court to do so.