District Court Judge Murphy passes gavel to successor
A transfer of power occurred Monday in Douglas County District Court.
After 15 years on the bench, Judge Jack Murphy handed over the gavel to Lawrence attorney Sally Pokorny.
The situation left both a bit apprehensive.
“I’ve never been retired,” said a jovial Murphy. “I’m looking forward to that, but I don’t quite know what I’m going to do yet.”
Murphy, whose last day was Monday, said the job has been a satisfying challenge.
He was appointed to the bench in 1994 by then-Gov. Joan Finney, replacing Judge James W. Paddock, who retired after serving more than 20 years.
“There comes a time … that you should leave,” Murphy said. “You can stay too long in this job. … It has a lot of power.”
District Chief Judge Robert Fairchild described Murphy as “a great judge” who had much respect for the law and for people.
“Judge Murphy is one of those steadfast members of the court,” Fairchild said. “He is always there when we need him; he’s just an outstanding individual.”
On Friday, dozens of people crowded the courtroom at the County Courthouse, 11th and Massachusetts streets, to wish Murphy well. Prior to the celebrating, Pokorny — the incoming judge — said all the admiration surrounding her soon-to-be predecessor made her nervous.
“Everybody loves Judge Murphy. You cannot talk to anybody in this town that doesn’t just think that he’s the greatest guy in the world,” said Pokorny, who was appointed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in December. “So, that’s really a hard position to follow.”
Pokorny, who brings three decades of legal experience with her to the bench, will leave a job as an attorney in the law offices of David J. Brown, LC.
Previously, she was in private practice in Coffeyville and Independence for 20 years; served as a district court judge pro tem in Shawnee County; was the Cherryvale city attorney; was elected as Montgomery County attorney; worked as an adjunct law professor at Washburn University, where she received her law degree; and served as an assistant district attorney in Shawnee County.
“I’m sure she’ll do an excellent job,” said Murphy, who has agreed to preside over assigned cases across the state after his retirement.
Pokorny will be sworn in Thursday and attend a three-day judges school in Topeka the following week, before being thrown into the thick of it.
“It’s real exciting,” Pokorny said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”