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District Magistrate Judge, District 23

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    Douglas (Doug) E. Bigge

  • Richard A. Flax

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 I was born in Plainville, KS and have lived in Rooks County, Kansas my whole life. I was raised on a farm outside of Stockton and when I married Kori Karstetter we moved to Plainville and lived there for 15 years. We have a daughter Kourtney, who is 13 years old. Our daughter, Dena passed away in 2008 and Kori suffered a heart attack days later and then had to have a heart transplant in 2013. We currently have two fur babies in our home also.
Campaign Phone (785) 425-8302
Campaign Email
Education I have a Bachelor of Arts from Fort Hays State University. I attended Fort Hays State and the University of Utah for a year.
Community/Public Service I started the Rooks County Coat Exchange project where people donate new or gently used coats and you can come to the court house to pick them up. This project has been going for around 17 years. Throughout the years, I have coached t-ball and coach pitch teams in both Stockton and Plainville. My wife and I coached the 5th Grade girls basketball team in Plainville when our daughter was playing. I have worked to be visible in the communities and to let people know that judges are human just like them.
Address 325 Gracie Street, Stockton, Kansas
The justice system is the mechanism that upholds the rule of law. Our courts provide a forum to resolve disputes and to test and enforce laws in a fair and rational manner. The courts are an impartial forum and judges are free to apply the law without regard to the government's wishes or the weight of public opinion. The magistrate shall be neutral and detached. We do not work for or with law enforcement. We are here to make sure any party gets a fair hearing. As a magistrate, we handle traffic, misdemeanor criminal, child in need of care, juvenile offender, small claims, limited civil and felonies up to arraignment and a myriad of other cases. When people appear in court without an attorney, it is up to them to bring any witnesses and evidence with them. The court does not go out and talk to witnesses and bring evidence in. Any person arrested or charged with a crime is INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. They have the right to due process.
The most pressing problem at this time is the Covid-19 pandemic. It is totally changing how and when court is held. Our district has gone to Zoom hearings, but that is not the answer. People still need to be able to get into court and have access to the court. Education is another pressing problem. Many people do not understand the different roles of a judge. As a magistrate judge, I have no control over sentencing of felonies, ie. possession of meth, possession of illegal prescription drugs, burglary. All felonies are sentenced by a district judge. Any motion to revoke probation of a felony is also handled by a district judge.
This is a tough situation. I am not accepting any donations from Rooks County citizens. They should not have to worry about who donated to the magistrate judge race when they are in court. When I see a judicial candidate sign in a state troopers yard, I question if that candidate is going to be fair and unbiased if someone questions or wants a trial on a ticket issued by the state trooper. When a law enforcement officer runs for a position like magistrate judge, do they understand the different roles we have? Will that candidate recuse himself from anyone that he has arrested? Will that candidate that worked with, supervised or trained another officer be fair and unbiased when that officers judgement is questioned? Will a defendant even know if their name had been in a report that the officer read and that will be used against them in court?
The Kansas State Legislature has really limited any thing courts can do to juvenile offenders. The legislature has set time limits and restrictions, that if the offender does not follow probation at all, they will still be released from probation. It is also limiting the number of people that can be removed from home and placed elsewhere. The only offenders that can be removed are the extreme cases and even then, some of them are to be placed back home (potentially with their victims) in a short period.

The county attorney uses the first time offender program to help with the first time offenders, but the number of juvenile offender cases have declined since the change in the law.

Juvenile offenders, start at home. We have to work with the schools to find the children that need attention. Rooks County is using a multi disciplinary team with the schools, law enforcement, social services and the county attorney to identify high risk children.
As a magistrate judge, I can not send any one to prison. The most I can do is a year in the county jail. While it sounds good to say, I am going to put you in jail and throw away the key, you are dealing with parents, people with jobs, caregivers and others. The social strain that is caused by defendants losing jobs, going on welfare and losing their homes have to be balanced with justice. We use short jail sentences or allow people to serve on weekends to allow them to continue to work. We also have different levels of supervised probation to supervise any defendant and to make sure they maintain a job and stay drug free. People need punishment, but that can come in many forms, beside just jail time. It costs the county and the taxpayers of Rooks County anytime a person in placed in jail.] Jail time has and will continued to be used, but it must be tempered with all the facts of a case.
The courts do not work for or with law enforcement. We need to remember that the accused still have rights and still treat the defendant with respect. Bond is a large issue. The accused are allowed a reasonable bond and bond shall not be used as punishment. Bond reform has been a nationwide topic and is even being studied on the state level with the Supreme Court Ad Hoc Pretrial Justice Task Force that was formed to examine pretrial detention practices in Kansas district court. The were charged with examining current pretrial detention practices for criminal defendant in Kansas district courts, studying alternatives to ensure public safety and encourage an accused to appear for court proceedings and comparing effective pretrial detention practices and detention alternatives used by other courts. Judges, attorneys, and law enforcement officers all have different roles in the justice system.
It starts with education. Meth is a terrible problem for our counties, but with the sentencing grid that is used in our state a person could be convicted of possession of meth, serve their 12 months of probation without any probation violations, then get convicted again after they are off probation, then convicted again and still not be looking at prison time. They would not be looking at prison at all, if they never commit a person crime. That is not the judges fault, that is set by our state legislature. The Kansas Legislature and the Kansas Sentencing Commission have come up with this grid and it must be followed by district judges. The 23rd Judicial District is having the Zoom hearings streamed to You Tube. This allows the community to watch what is happening. The courtroom is open to the public, except for a few types of hearings that are closed.
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