KU News Release

Dec. 1, 2011
Contact: Sarah Shebek, School of Law, 785-864-2388

KU law professor's book details storied history of federal district court in Kansas

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LAWRENCE – “There is something about Kansas that inspires men and women to excel,” begins a new book by a University of Kansas law professor that colorfully commemorates the state’s branch of the federal court system.

Michael H. Hoeflich, the John H. and John M. Kane Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Kansas, will discuss his book, “Justice on the Prairie: 150 Years of the Federal District Court of Kansas,” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6, at the National Archives at Kansas City. Hoeflich will be available to sign copies of the book after the discussion. A 6 p.m. reception will precede the talk.

Two years in the making, “Justice on the Prairie” chronicles the development of the federal District Court of Kansas, featuring key cases and judges along the way. The court grew from a single judge to a complex system of judges who are the entry point in Kansas into the federal judicial system. At 144 pages, this illustrated book is a commissioned history of the court and makes use of a mix of historical information, including photos, charts and biographical features.

In 1861, the year that Kansas became a state, the federal District Court for the District of Kansas was born. In the 150 years that followed, the court maintained an impressive independent stance, as judges battled everything from Prohibition activists to striking unions. The most famous case came in the watershed decision of Brown v. Board of Education, and Hoeflich devotes a chapter to detailing racial segregation and integration pre-Brown in Kansas, the plaintiffs, judges and lawyers surrounding the case, and the trial’s implications both locally and nationally.

Besides deciding controversial cases, district judges in Kansas also work far beyond the call of duty to excel. Notably, Hoeflich mentions today’s federal District Court and the “Super Seniors.” These three judges – Wesley Brown, Richard Rogers and Sam Crow – have over a century of combined experience on the bench, and Brown is the oldest living sitting federal judge at 104 years old. Rogers, a KU Law alumnus and 90 years old himself, wrote the forward for the book and praised it as “meticulously researched and masterfully written.”

Other notable KU Law alumni featured in this book include Judge Walter A. Huxman, one of the three judges in the Brown v. Board of Education case and a pioneer in racial equality; Judge Earl Eugene O’Connor, who was instrumental in creating the Sumner Academy and desegregating the entire Kansas City, Kan., school district; and current Judge Julie Robinson, the first African-American and second woman to serve as a federal district judge in Kansas. On today’s federal District Court, seven out of the 10 judges received their law degree from the University of Kansas.

Hoeflich credited a support team for the finished product, including former KU Law students.

“The book took two years to write because of the amazing assistance of a group of KU law students who were research assistants on the project and the Herculean assistance from the district court staff,” he said.

This is Hoeflich’s seventh book. He also writes as a columnist for the Lawrence Journal-World. He served as dean of the KU law school from 1994 to 2000 and dean of Syracuse University College of Law from 1988 to 1994, and taught at the University of Illinois from 1980 to 1988. Hoeflich holds degrees from Haverford College, Cambridge University and Yale Law School. Additionally, he is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a member of the American Antiquarian Society and the Kansas Correspondent of the Selden Society. His research interests include ethics and legal history.

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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