KS Courts – Kansas District Judge Receives National Award for Sustained Justice System Improvement

TOPEKADistrict Judge Keven MP O’Grady of the 10th Judicial District was recognized for his many contributions to improving the justice system when he received the 2022 Mary C. McQueen Award at a national conference Last week.

The prize is awarded in even years recognize an “individual who has made extraordinary contributions to the improvement of the administration of justice at the local, state, or national level over an extended period of time”.

The award was presented to O’Grady on July 26 at a joint meeting of the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators in Chicago.

“There are few people as worthy of this award as Justice O’Grady,” said Chief Justice Marla Luckert. “He has done a phenomenal job of advancing access and improving the administration of justice in Kansas courts and in courts across the country.”

Luckert and State Court Administrator Stephanie Bunten O’Grady nominee for initiatives it launched in its judicial district, beginning with a Peer Support Center and Night Court, and expanded to include the Kansas Protective Orders Portal used by district courts across the state.

“Judge O’Grady is not alone in his efforts to improve the administration of justice in Kansas, but he stands out for the depth, breadth and scope of its efforts,” said Bunten. “What he’s done in his backyard inspires us all to make improvements where we can.”

While honored to receiving the award, O’Grady isn’t shy about shining the spotlight on others.

“I’m so grateful to be recognized, but I’m thinking of all the people who have worked on these projects and that this award is more theirs than mine,” he said.

Starting a support center

O’Grady had been a judge only soon after, he partnered with a team of judges, court clerks and community workers to create a self-help center for people who come to court without a lawyer.

From its creation in 2014 to today, the Johnson County Self-Help Center has provided counseling, insurance and options to more than 30,000 court clients who are navigating their way through the court system on their own. Its services have also grown from an initial focus on family law to include a variety of legal issues that affect people who cannot afford an attorney, such as evictions, name changes and small claims.

“We never imagined when we started with a few tables and computers in an unused space corner of the courthouse that it would evolve into the purpose-built space that we have now, in a brand new courthouse,” O’Grady said.

The current state-of-the-art center has several computer terminals for filling out forms, private rooms for volunteer lawyers to meet with litigants and “Zoom rooms” for people who must appear at a remote hearing but do not have the technology. necessary to appear. of the House.

Job satisfaction of court employees

O’Grady noted that an unexpected benefit of the self-help center was the job satisfaction it brought to the court employees who work there.

“Working in the Peer Help Center takes a special skill set,” O’Grady said. “People are stressed and you have to really listen to be able to understand what they need. Our employees who work in the self-help center find it useful to provide this assistance without giving legal advice. »

He also has kidding, the Peer Support Center has “more hugs per square foot than any other space in the courthouse.”

O’Grady shared his thoughts on starting the Peer Support Center in a 2015 Court Review article which continues to serve as a benchmark for courts in the early stages of starting their ownhelp centers.

A spin-off of the project were easy to understand formswhat O’Grady says are the foundation of the self-help centre. These forms were then used by the Kansas Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Committee as a model to develop forms for use in courts across the state by people who do not have attorneys.

Another spinoff was the first forensic resource navigator position in a Kansas court. Navigator connects court users to needed community resourcesdispute resolution services or other resources, recognizing that legal needs are often linked to basic life needs.

Departure Night Yard

In 2016, O’Grady worked with the self-help center to start night court one evening a month for people who have difficulty getting to the courthouse during the day. When people arrive for night court, court staff check that they have all the required documents and volunteer lawyers meet with the parties to check that the documents are complete. Judges sign documents to resolve cases, and a clerk files the documents and gives the parties their certified copies before they leave.

O’Grady was invited to ddescribe the Night Court program to a national audience through a National Center for State Courts TinyChatwhich are short video programs for the courts of the country.

Providing service during the pandemic

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, O’Grady and the self-helpdesk staff took action that allowed them to continue to provide remote support. This change included the use of remote options to answer questions, provide forms and connect people to the justice system.

It was during this time that O’Grady connected the Office of Judicial Administration with staff at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law to create the Kansas Protective Orders Portala website that allows people to file a claim online to protect themselves from abuse, harassment or human trafficking from one safe location.

Today, nearly half of all applications for protective orders in state courts are filed through the portal.

About Justice O’Grady

O’Grady was appointed as a Johnson County District Court judge in 2012.

Before becoming a judge, he practiced law at Overland Park. He received a bachelor’s degree from Rockhurst College in 1984 and a law degree from the University of Kansas Law School in 1987.

O’Grady has chaired the Kansas Child Support Guidelines Advisory Committee since July 2020 and the Kansas Advisory Council on Dispute Resolution since August 2017. He was a member of the Kansas Supreme Court Access to Justice Committee from August 2008 to July 2013.

About the Mary McQueen Award

Named in honor of Mary McQueen, president of the National Center for State Courts since 2004, the award recognizes an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to improving the administration of justice at the local, state level, or at the national level for a period of time. The prize is awarded jointly by the Conference of Chief Justices, Conference of State Court Administrators, National Association of Presiding Judges and Court Officers and National Association for Court Management.