In his 13 years as a judge, Gunnar Sundby has never used his gavel.

In his 13 years as a judge, Gunnar Sundby has never used his gavel.

The district judge, who works in Leavenworth, said he generally has fairly good control of his courtroom.

"I feel that I'm fairly patient," he told a group of high school seniors.
Sundby answered questions about his profession when visiting with students in a government class Tuesday at Leavenworth High School.

Teacher Michael Stuart said students have been studying the judicial branch of government for the past five weeks.

Sundby presides over the criminal docket for Leavenworth County District Court. He's had this docket for four years. He previously handled the domestic relations docket.

Stuart asked Sundby about how emotion plays a role in the judicial branch.

Sundby said judges "try to be as dispassionate as we can."

He said there's not a lot of emotion involved in determining a person's sentence. He said sentences in Kansas are calculated using state sentencing guidelines.

"It's just math," he said.

He said emotion sometimes can become involved in probation violation cases when a decision has to be made about whether a person will be sent to prison or given another chance.

Sundby said he cannot possibly send everyone who violates probation to prison. He said the state prisons wouldn't have the room. But he also said not everybody who violates probation deserves to go to prison.

The judge was asked about his most memorable case.

Sundby said one of the most startling moments he's had as a judge came at the conclusion of a case involving sexual abuse charges. The defendant fainted upon learning he'd been convicted and family members began shouting.

"Everybody was screaming and yelling," he said.

He said another case, which was a death penalty case, required the most research. This case ultimately ended with a plea agreement.
Sundby said the most common type of cases he sees are felony drug cases and felony DUIs.

Sundby explained to students that Kansas is about equally split in terms of the number of counties that have elected judges and those that have appointed judges.

The judges in the 1st Judicial District, which includes Leavenworth County, are appointed. But Sundby said he's still subject to retention votes every four years.