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County chooses Lawrence attorney to become new judge pro tem; position to begin next week

A Lawrence attorney who specializes in domestic cases has been appointed as judge pro tem with the Douglas County District Court in the latest effort to speed up the county's judicial process.



Bethany Roberts will join the Douglas County District Court on Jan. 2 as the court's ...

Bethany Roberts will start her duties with the court Jan. 2. She will be the second Douglas County taxpayer-funded judge pro tem with the 7th State Judicial District of Douglas County, which also has six state-funded District Court judges. Unlike district court judges, which are appointed by the state, pro tem judges are hired locally and are restricted in the types of cases they can hear.

Roberts has been an attorney with the Lawrence law firm Barber Emerson, specializing in cases involving child and adult victims of domestic, sexual and dating violence, Court Administrator Linda Koester-Vogelsang said. Roberts has left that position to become judge pro tem. She also is an adjunct professor at Washburn Law School, teaching topics related to child and family law.

Prior to her Lawrence work, Koester-Vogelsang said Roberts was the managing attorney with Kansas Legal Services in Topeka after earning her law degree in 2003 from the University of Kansas.

In July, the Douglas County Commission agreed to fund a request from Douglas County District Court Chief Judge Peggy Kittel to provide $130,000 in the 2018 county budget for the salaries of a second judge pro tem and an administrative assistant.

The County Commission agreed to add the second pro tem with the hope the position would allow District Court judges to spend more time on criminal cases. Although pro tem judges can't preside over felony cases, they can oversee felony first appearances and cases involving juvenile offenders, child support modifications, traffic and small claims civil actions.

The County Commission’s goal in adding the second pro tem position was to help ease overcrowding at the county jail through the quicker disposition of criminal cases. Part of the jail's crowding issues involve inmates who are awaiting trial. Many of those inmates are facing felony charges, which can require greater amounts of court time.

According to Kansas Judicial Branch, Douglas County District Court had 625 felony cases come before it in fiscal year 2016. That was an increase from 538 in fiscal year 2015 and was the largest number since fiscal year 2007, when there were 629 felony cases before the court.

Roberts will be the first additional judge added to the Douglas County District Court since the state approved a sixth district judge in 2005. The county has funded a judge pro tem for about two decades.


Julie Powell

I used to think the individuals that made the decisions for Douglas County were stupid, but now they are just plain ignorant. Bethany Roberts is a worthless attorney and she will suck even more as a judge. She was down right horrible as a Guardian Ad Litem. I pity any child that has her as their presiding judge. She ignored the children that she was supposed to be working for and then sided with the lazy dead beat fathers who allowed their bi-polar step parent to beat them up and emotionally abuse them. To defend the children involved meant she would have to put in some effort and do the right thing which Bethany is physically incapable of doing. God help Douglas County now. To all of the Lawrencians, "it's time to move" this place is going to H E double hockey sticks faster than you realize. I can't believe that there wasn't one person that could possible beat her out. She had to try three times before she was able to be picked. For her I guess the third times the charm, but for the rest of Lawrence we got screwed. Was this really the best of the best?

6 months ago


Deb Engstrom

I'm sorry you had a bad experience, but this was not the case in every situation.

6 months ago


Lynn Dawson

Obviously Julie has a side to her encounter with Ms. Roberts. However, it was one encounter. I was her paralegal for four years and know her work and character. I can honestly say that she was the best, most caring and hard working attorney I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. And I’ve been a paralegal for multiple attorneys for twenty years. Douglas County is very lucky to have her on the bench. As in all things she will perform her duties in an intelligent, diligent and professional manner. Yes, she really is the best of the best.

5 months, 4 weeks ago


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