Process under way to pick retiring Judge Miller’s replacement

By Katherine Wartell

The 21st Judicial District nominating commission is now in the process of collecting applications and nominations from the public for the district judge vacancy, following the announcement in early April that Riley County District Judge Paul Miller is retiring in June.

The nine-member commission, comprised of four lawyers, four non-lawyers and Chairperson Justice Marla Luckert, will collect applications until June 1. Judge Miller is set to retire on June 8.

The commission is responsible for then submitting two to three candidates to Gov. Sam Brownback, who will appoint one of the suggested nominees.

The commission will interview the applicants on June 18 at 9 a.m. in the Riley County Courthouse, 426 Poyntz Ave. The meeting is open to the public, and Luckert said commission members will take public comment.

Luckert said that on June 19 the commission will certify the two or three individuals that they will submit to Gov. Brownback. She said the governor will then have 30 days to appoint a candidate. By approximately July 20, the new judge will be known, she said.

Luckert said the commission will place an emphasis on candidates who have experience in dealing fairly and impartially, their academic background and their personality, adding that the new judge will need to fit in well at the courthouse.

Ron Keefover, education-information officer for the Office of Judicial Administration, said that Kansas statute requires that a judge be a resident of the district in which they are selected, be at least 30 years of age, have been in the active practice of law for at least five years and have been admitted to the practice of law in Kansas.

Keefover said that suggested nominees are requested to complete questionnaires for the position, which can be found at, and return them to commission member Barry Clark, of Clark and Kellstrom, Chtd., 417 Poyntz Ave., by noon on June 1.

The commission will not meet until after the application deadline passes, Keefover said.

He said the names of the applicants will be released after the deadline and said he is unsure at this time the number of candidates.

Riley County District Judge Meryl Wilson, who was named to the bench in 1997, said he understands that some candidates have applied, but that the number is fewer than in previous years.

He said that a combination of the heavy workload and relatively low salaries compared against what successful attorneys in private practice earn may be depressing interest.

“Why would we want to work that hard and take a pay cut?” Wilson said is the reaction some attorneys have provided for not seeking the appointment.

All judges appointed by the nominating commission stand for retention at four-year intervals beginning with the first general election after they have been in office for one year.

The lawyer members of the 21st district judicial nominating commission are Barry Clark, James Morrison, Derrick Roberson and Richard Seaton, all from Manhattan.

The non-lawyer members are Johanna Lyle, of Manhattan, Kyle Bauer, Steven McMahan, both of Clay Center, and Steven Hargrave, Randolph.

The lawyer members of the nominating commission are elected by attorneys, while non-lawyer members are appointed by the local county commissions in the judicial district.

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