(MANHATTAN, KS – November 22, 2022) — Manhattan City Manager Ron Fehr announced today that James R. Kepple, who currently serves as a District Magistrate Judge for the 21st Judicial District in Riley County, has been hired as Manhattan’s new Municipal Court Judge, with a start date of November 28.
Kepple will replace current Municipal Judge Patrick Caffey, who will retire December 9 after 40 years of service to the City of Manhattan Municipal Court.
Kepple will perform the judicial function of the City. The judge is authorized and empowered to exercise independent judgment in all cases brought before the court, without influence or interference by any elected or appointed City official.
“We are fortunate to have someone with Judge Kepple’s experience and qualifications right here in Manhattan,” Fehr said. “As we transition from Judge Caffey’s part-time status to Judge Kepple’s full-time position, we are grateful for Judge Caffey’s dedication to the community for the past 40 years and wish him well in his retirement.”
The municipal judge hears all cases brought into the Municipal Court, and has the power to bring before the Municipal Court all parties for trial upon complaints that are properly made.
In addition to presiding over Municipal Court, the judge sets bonds and reviews requests for appointed counsel, performs legal research as necessary to render opinions, and works with the Court Administrator and City Attorney to ensure the orderly, efficient, and fiscally responsible operation of the Municipal Court.
“I appreciate the opportunity to serve the community as municipal judge, and I look forward to working with Municipal Court staff and other stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition to a new judge,” Kepple said.
Prior to working for Riley County District Court, Kepple was a District Magistrate Judge for the 24th Judicial District in Ness County from 1993 through 2017.
While living in Ness City, he also served as that city’s part-time municipal judge in 2016-2017. He served in a similar capacity for LaCrosse in 2001-2015.
A Kansas native, Kepple began his legal career as an associate attorney with Marhofer Law Office in Ness City, where he worked from 1985 through 1992.
He transitioned into government when he was appointed the part-time city attorney for Ness City in November 1991, serving in that position for one year.
Kepple holds a bachelor of science degree from Kansas State University and he earned his juris doctorate at Washburn University School of Law in Topeka.
He has been a member of the Kansas Bar Association since 1985, and also is an active member of the Riley County Bar Association and the Kansas District Magistrate Judges’ Association.
Kepple has been a member of the District Magistrate Judge Certification Committee, Access to Justice Committee, Kansas District Judges Manual Revision Committee, and Judicial Needs Assessment Committee (as part of the 2011 Kansas District Court Weighted Caseload Study), all four of which were appointments made by the Kansas Supreme Court.
He also has been a member of the Kansas District Magistrate Judges’ Association Legislative Committee and was a 2012 winner of the Lee Nusser Outstanding District Magistrate Judge Award.