Jeffry Jack, the Labette County district judge who became a punching bag for Republicans and an embarrassment for Gov. Laura Kelly, is leaving the bench to mentor children in Lawrence.
Jack said his retirement from judicial work is unrelated to the political firestorm surrounding his failed nomination for an appeals court position earlier this year and the revelation of his politically charged, profanity-laced social media posts.
He will retire Jan. 2 from the county bench he has held since 2005 and join Big Brothers Big Sisters of Douglas County as an area director based in Lawrence. Jack said he has been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters for 15 years as a board member and Big Brother.
"When the opportunity presented itself to go to work for such an important organization making a difference in the lives of so many people, I knew such an opportunity might not come along again, and the time is right for me personally," Jack said.
Kelly, a Democrat, selected Jack from pre-screened candidates to fill an open appeals court seat in March, touching off two months of legal drama that ended with a universal rejection of Jack by the Kansas Senate.
Shortly after the governor announced her selection, Republicans uncovered two-year-old comments in which Jack insulted conservative GOP figures, including Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican. He referred to Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, as a "POS." The sitting judge also opined on police practices, gun violence and abortion.
Wagle said the announcement of Jack's retirement "is a win for justice and judicial integrity."
"The people of Labette County no longer have to appear before a politically biased judge," Wagle said.
The governor expressed disappointment in Jack's remarks and attempted to withdraw the nomination. Wagle led a charge to block Kelly from making another appointment, forcing the Kansas Supreme Court to settle the dispute. The justices said the Kansas Senate would need to decide Jack's fate, resulting in a 0-38 vote.
Kelly then appointed Johnson County attorney Sarah Warner, who received widespread bipartisan support, but Wagle and others continue to point to Jack as an example of poor decision making by the governor.
Republicans promised to file complaints about Jack's social media posts, saying he was unfit to dispense justice at any level.
"It is my understanding that there are no pending disciplinary proceedings," Jack said, "and I do not expect there to be any in the future, so that had zero influence on my decision. I simply have been a district court judge for 14 years, and I have had to see and deal with things that no one wants to see or deal with, and I am ready for a positive change."
Mary Shannon, president of Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters, said the organization is apolitical and committed to serving youths who face adversity. She said Jack was hired because of his 15 years of association with the organization as a mentor and community leadership council member.
"Our mentors and staff come from all walks of life," Shannon said. "In our organization, there is no political aisle but rather a common goal to inspire youth to achieve their dreams and to become our next great citizens and leaders."