3 judges in 5 days: Kansas City police board’s lawsuit switches judges once again

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KANSAS CITY, Mo — There’s been some judicial juggling on the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners’ lawsuit against the Kansas City Council.

The case has burned through three judges already before the city has even filed its response.

These types of judge reassignments are nothing extraordinary. They can happen hundreds of times a month. But it’s the organizations and one judge involved that are raising questions.

Three judges in five days have been assigned to hear the police board’s lawsuit over KCPD funding. On June 11, Kansas City’s attorney requested the case be transferred from Judge Kevin Harrell to someone else.

The city attorney told FOX4 she will not discuss why the city made that request, but some critics say the city asked for the move because it thinks it has a better chance of winning outside of Harrell’s court room.

FOX4 asked 16th Circuit Presiding Judge Dale Youngs for his input, and he said the city didn’t have to give a reason this time.

“In order to take a change of judge from Judge Harrell, no they didn’t have to do that, and I don’t know that that presumption is correct. People take a change of judge from a particular judge for any number of reasons,” he said.

Each side gets one free change of judge request. If there is a second request, they must tell the court why they are making the request.

The second judge assigned was Judge Bryan Rounds, who was the secretary, attorney and business manager for the Board of Police Commissioners from 1997-2005. He recused himself from the case Wednesday. Round’s past was not considered when he got the assignment to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

“We literally take the next person in line who takes the case as it comes to them, and to do it any other way would raise the very issues that people have raised regarding Judge Round, right or wrong, true or false,” Youngs said. “That’s how we get around that and get away from that. I simply taking the next person in line.”

Now, the next in line is Judge Patrick Campbell, who will hear the case. If the city asks for another change in judge, it will have to tell the court why. The Board of Police Commissioners still has its free pass.

Mark Tolbert, president of the police board, did not respond to FOX4’s request for comment for this story.

In another development, the city has asked for a one-week extension in filing its response to the lawsuit. 

On Monday, Urban League President Gwen Grant filed a motion to join the lawsuit on behalf of the city’s taxpayers. The city wants more time to determine if that request would change its response.

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