Tony Martinez, a Kansas City, Kansas, attorney, is a candidate for Wyandotte County District Court judge, Division 5.
The position is open this year as Judge Dexter Burdette is retiring. Also running for Division 5 are Jane Sieve Wilson and Mike Nichols. Martinez also ran for judge in the 2016 election.
Martinez emphasized his 27 years of experience as an attorney, handling criminal law, juvenile, family law, probate, trust and estate cases. He said he wanted to give back to the community.
His two main themes in running for office are that he is very qualified, and it is important to have more diversity on the bench, he said. Currently there are no Hispanic judges in the Wyandotte County District Court.
“This is my community, and I think I can serve this community very well as a judge, as well as I’ve served this community as an attorney,” Martinez said. He held a campaign launch event recently at the Kansas City Kansas Community College Mary Ann Flunder Lodge by the Lake.
He has always worked for the people, not for the corporations, coming back to serve the community in the best way possible, he added.
“I also believe there is a need for more diversity on the bench, and I think I represent the face for that,” Martinez said.
Martinez, originally from the Armourdale, Argentine and Rosedale areas, is from a second-generation Mexican-American family in Kansas City, Kansas.
“I believe I represent the best there is to come out of Kansas City, Kansas,” he said.
“My parents were hard-scrabble, hard-working people,” he said. One grandfather started as a meat-cutter, another grandfather worked for the railroad, his father was a teamster and his mother was a mill worker, he said.
Martinez received his law degree from Washburn University, Topeka. He attended several schools and graduated from Bishop O’Hara High School in south Kansas City, Missouri.
He began work before he got out of high school, starting at age 14 working in a grain elevator near 18th and Kansas Avenue, he said.
It was that job that eventually led to him becoming a lawyer. He worked for years shoveling at the grain elevator when his employer recommended that he go to work in the company’s laboratory in Topeka, he said.
After a while, his employer convinced him to further his education, and he went to law school.
“I was lucky enough to have him push me,” Martinez said. “I was encouraged by some really nice people who thought I had the ability to think.”
Martinez said he worked his way through law school, paying for it himself.
If elected, Martinez said he would want to streamline the process by which the court accepts cases, to bring about more of a scheduled way of accepting and disposing of cases.
Criminal cases represent only 10 percent of the cases judges handle, he said. While he has not been a prosecutor, he has handled criminal law from the defense side. He said he is more qualified, practicing law longer than the other candidates, and he has handled all the other types of cases.
“There needs to be more of a transition so all the judges know how to handle all the different types of cases,” Martinez said.
Besides his experience in most areas of the law, Martinez has served as a judge pro tem in Municipal Court.
“We have a population that’s culturally so diverse here in Wyandotte County,” he said, “it’s densely populated with a diverse background.”
Three groups, whites, blacks and Hispanics, are nearly equal in population.
“There isn’t any face that looks like mine on the bench,” he said. It’s important to have a bench that reflects the culturally diverse population, he said. Young Hispanic people wonder if they can ever become a lawyer or judge if there are none there that look like them.
“I’d like to be one of those faces in the community, where Hispanics and all people can say, we have a diverse bench that reflects the community,” he said. “We don’t have that yet, but I’d like to see it.”
Martinez and his wife, Angela, have been married 21 years. He has five children and four grandchildren.
He serves on the executive boards of the Kansas City, Kansas, Rotary Club, the Kansas City, Kansas, NAACP, and the Armourdale Renewal Association. He also is a member of the Greater Kansas City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas City, Kansas, Downtown Shareholders.