Liking a Facebook comment has become an ethical issue for a Butler County judge.
13th Judicial District Judge Hon. Jan Satterfield of El Dorado clicked the “like” button on a Facebook post by the campaign of Sheriff Kelly Herzet. The post read, “Soooooo… I was thinking that we could get to 200 likes by 6/18. That’s only 88 more. Wouldn’t that be cool?”
Satterfield was one of 36 people who liked the post.
A former Butler County resident who now lives in California has filed a complaint with the Kansas Commission of Judicial Qualifications about that seemingly minor interaction. Lee White filed the complaint because he believes it violates the judicial canons of ethics that prevent a judge from “publicly endorsing or opposing another candidate for any public office.”
The commission sent White a letter informing him that his complaint would be placed on its August 10 regular meeting agenda – three days after the primary election is over.
Satterfield said she had not been made aware of any complaint about her and wasn't sure if she could discuss it if there was. She said she has never endorsed a candidate.
"I will vote like anyone else, but judges can't endorse candidates," Satterfield said.
White, who has publicly supported Herzet’s opponent in the Sheriff’s race said in an email, “Although it seems trivial on the surface, I believe this could be an interesting case and probably the first of its kind in Kansas. With the growth of social media, the court system needs to define how its rules for judges apply in cyberspace. I hope the commission and perhaps even the Kansas Supreme Court will do so in this case.”
White claimed he had no malice toward Satterfield.
“Although I believe Jan Satterfield is a nice woman who has done much for the children of Butler County,” White said. “her ‘liking’ Sheriff Kelly Herzet's Facebook post could be construed as showing bias toward a department whose deputies appear regularly before the court.”
White has also taken issue with employees from the election department liking posts on the Herzet campaign’s Facebook page. He went as far as to suggest that Secretary of State Kris Kobach should send an election observer to Butler County because people administering the election were participating on Herzet’s page.
Herzet apologized to people who have been caught in the crossfire between the two campaigns on the same platform earlier this week.
In a post on Wednesday, Herzet said, “It saddens me to report that our opponent's campaign has started personally and publically attacking fans of this page. While it is my intent to remain positive throughout this campaign, I feel it is my responsibility to make everyone aware of this and let you know that we understand if you choose to UNLIKE this page as a result of these attacks on you and your constitutional freedom of speech. We appreciate everyone's support and enjoy all the comments and encouragement we have received. Keep the momentum! Onward TEAM HERZET!!”
Page 2 of 2 - The only two candidates for Butler County Sheriff are Republicans so the August 7, Primary election will determine the winner of the race.
Early voting at the Butler County Courthouse continues through August 7 when polls open across the county.