TOPEKA — As she was sworn in Friday, Lesley Ann Isherwood assured Kansans she would put forth the greatest effort to exemplify the qualities of kindness, excellence and integrity in her new role as a judge on the Kansas Court of Appeals.
Isherwood, previously the senior assistant district attorney for Sedgwick County, could not promise to be infallible in her work but committed to be faithful to the rule of law and maintain an open mind in all proceedings. Experience arguing hundreds of cases before the state Court of Appeals and the Kansas Supreme Court provides her invaluable knowledge in how to fairly rule on a variety of cases, she said.
“It will be my goal to write opinions that are concise and unambiguous. A person might not always agree with my conclusion, but the path I follow to reach that conclusion will be transparent,” Isherwood said. “It is likewise my every hope that someday… the conclusion will be that I have made a difference by contributing to the betterment of the people of the state.”
Isherwood was sworn in alongside a small number of family and friends in a ceremony presided over by Karen Arnold-Burger, chief judge of the court of appeals. Gov. Laura Kelly appointed Isherwood to the position in February to fill the vacancy created by Judge Steve Leben’s resignation.
Isherwood received a bachelor’s degree in English in 1995 and a law degree in 1998 from Washburn University. She then worked for a year as an associate in a Dodge City law firm before joining the Sedgwick district attorney’s office in 1999.
Isherwood was named the Wichita Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” honoree in 2012. She is also a member of the Wichita Bar Association, National District Attorneys Association, and Kansas County and District Attorneys Association.
Isherwood estimated that throughout her career she has written and submitted about 1,300 briefs to either the Court of Appeals or the Kansas Supreme Court. She also has argued 400 appeals before the two courts. At the same time, she has read hundreds of briefs written by other lawyers.
“Ms. Isherwood has devoted her career to serving Kansans as a prosecutor, and she has become one of the most experienced appellate litigators in our state,” Kelly said in a February statement. “She will bring to the Court of Appeals not only that wealth of experience but also a love of her community and of serving others. She will be an excellent Court of Appeals judge.”
Isherwood expressed an eagerness to begin work as an appellate judge and to join judges when they resume in-person sessions.
The Court of Appeals is usually a traveling court and, before the pandemic, convened at locations across Kansas. Court of Appeals judges have been hearing oral arguments by videoconference since May.
In a letter read by Arnold-Burger on his behalf, Jeffrey Goering, chief judge of the 18th Judicial District in Wichita, passed along wisdom he cited to the TV show “South Park.” There are no stupid questions, only stupid people, he said.
“Remember that when you grill the lawyers during oral arguments and go easy on the newbies. We all started our careers in the law as young dumb lawyers,” Goering said. “You will not get every decision correct, no judge does, but in most cases that you hear, you will have the last word. Endeavor to be as correct as you can, as often as you can, and you will enjoy a long and productive career on the appellate bench.”