- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 18, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas district court judge suspended from the bench earlier this year over allegations of sexual harassment and other misconduct is facing a second complaint accusing him of not testifying truthfully during a previous disciplinary hearing.

A state Commission on Judicial Qualifications panel finished a two-day hearing Tuesday on the latest complaint against Sedgwick County District Court Judge Timothy Henderson. Two retired judges testified as character witnesses for Henderson, saying they have never doubted his honesty.

Three assistant Sedgwick County district attorneys and a court services officer were witnesses Monday, disputing Henderson’s accounts of his conduct during a disciplinary hearing in May 2014. The latest complaint, filed by the commissioner’s examiner in October, said Henderson’s earlier testimony “was not candid and honest.”

The commission panel will make recommendations to the Kansas Supreme Court on what, if any, sanctions Henderson should face, and its decision is not expected until at least mid-October. The Supreme Court in February suspended Henderson from the bench without pay for three months over the first complaint against him.

Retired District Judge Robert Schmisseur, of Pratt County, who described himself as a mentor to Henderson and a friend of his parents, testified Tuesday that Henderson respected the Supreme Court’s decision, though Henderson was “embarrassed” by it. Schmisseur also said he couldn’t recall Henderson making offensive remarks in his presence.

“There was no reputation for dishonesty,” he said, recalling his acquaintance of nearly four decades.

Retired District Judge Jean Schmidt, of Shawnee County, said Henderson was a conscientious employee when she supervised his work on juvenile cases in the local district attorney’s office in the early 1990s.

“I always felt like he was very honest,” she testified. “I never had any question about what he told me.”

Both retired judges noted Henderson’s strong religious faith as a devout Catholic. Schmidt said when she supervised Henderson, he sometimes had trouble catching sexual innuendos.

Also, she testified, “He didn’t read people very well.”

The first complaint against Henderson alleged that for years, he repeatedly made sexually inappropriate comments in front of female attorneys and staffers. It also alleged he inappropriately used his influence as a judge to prevent a local attorney from handling adult guardianship cases and that he tried to get his wife a part-time job with the local school district. Henderson disputed the accusations.

Henderson’s attorney, Thomas Haney, repeatedly suggested while questioning defense witnesses that Henderson sometimes isn’t “politically correct,” but that he didn’t make comments or jokes that harassed or demeaned others. Haney asked Schmidt whether Henderson was politically correct.

She said, “Well, no, but I’m not either.”

Several other defense witnesses testified that dark humor is a way of dealing with the stress of handling juvenile cases or cases involving abused and neglected children.

But in its opinion in February, the state Supreme Court said that the evidence gathered following the first complaint showed that Henderson “exhibited extremely poor judgment” and made “offensive and demeaning comments” over “an extended period of time.”


Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna

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