GIRARD — History was made Friday at the Crawford County Courthouse when Lori Bolton Fleming was sworn in as judge of the 11th District Court of the State of Kansas.

GIRARD — History was made Friday at the Crawford County Courthouse when Lori Bolton Fleming was sworn in as judge of the 11th District Court of the State of Kansas.

She is the first woman judge for this district, which is comprised of Crawford, Cherokee and Labette Counties.

“I haven’t been able to find any other woman judge for this district in the research I’ve done,” said Crawford County Chief Judge John Gariglietti, who spoke at Fleming’s robing ceremony. “Finally, we have arrived.”

Fleming succeeds Judge Donald R. Noland in the court, and he had the honor of introducing her during the ceremony.

“I was fortunate to have her practice before me and I realized that she would excel,” he said.

When it was her turn to speak, the new judge said that she shared Noland’s strong commitment to juvenile justice and working to aid youth.

“When I taught in Fort Scott, my last class of the day was a group from a local boys home and they were so incredibly talented,” Fleming said. “I came to see them as diamonds in the rough.”

She shared a few of her visions for the 11th District Court of Kansas. One of those is making the courts more accessible.

“This district is comprised of some of the poorest counties in Kansas,” Fleming said. “Accessibility to courts is near and dear to my heart. There may be obstacles people face in traveling to court, and some attorneys have clients who don’t have the gas money to drive to court.”

One way of dealing with this, she said, is to expand the types of cases tried in Girard, which previously handled only criminal and juvenile cases.

Fleming also hopes to increase efficiency, and has been working with court clerks on ways to accomplish this.

Public trust is another issue.

“I was at a board meeting in Pittsburg and a woman there had just gotten a speeding ticket,” Fleming said. “Her fine was $200, and her comment was, ‘I don’t understand why the judges need that money.’ This person who had that opinion was highly educated, and that was scary to me. I want to work with the schools and educate the public.”

Fleming also introduced her family, including husband Kyle and children Aidan, who was adopted from Kazakhstan, Keagan, adopted from China, and Miriam, adopted from India, as well as her parents, Mark and Brinda Bolton, Fort Scott.

“My mother has a fire in her belly for justice,” Fleming said. “It’s always been one of my goals to work harder than my father, but I haven’t done it yet.”

There were also kind words for “the best group of in-laws ever,” including Robert and Peggy Fleming. Her father-in-law is judge of the Labette County District Court.

A Pittsburg State University graduate, Fleming was previously an English teacher and debate coach before embarking on her law career.

“I was coaching debate and found it difficult to stay on the sidelines,” Fleming said. “I had been thinking about law school, and pulled the trigger.”

She earned her juris doctor from the Washburn School of Law in 2001 and was admitted to the bar. Fleming served for a time as assistant Crawford County attorney and from 2003 on was in private practice, first with the Spigarelli Law Firm and later with Wilbert and Towner, handling cases related to family law, mediations, litigation, contracts and estate planning.

She said following the ceremony that she believes her experience with many types of cases will be useful to her as a judge.

“I was a mediator before I became a judge,” Fleming noted.

She said that she was humbled to be considered in a slate of such highly qualified nominees for the 11th District Court position. Gov. Sam Brownback announced her appointment as judge in May.

Fleming is also looking forward to working with her former colleagues, noting that comments she’s heard about rude or unprofessional attorneys in areas do not apply here.

“We have a talented group of professional attorneys in southeast Kansas,” the new judge said. “We don’t have gavels on our benches because we don’t need them.”