Seven apply to fill judge vacancy in the 11th Judicial District

Staff Reports

PITTSBURG, Kan. —Seven people have applied to fill a district judge vacancy created by Judge Oliver Kent Lynch’s August 1 retirement, the 11th Judicial District Nominating Commission reported last week.  

The new judge will oversee a district composed of Cherokee, Crawford, and Labette counties.  

The seven individuals who applied are:  

  • Maradeth Frederick, a solo practitioner 
  • Troy Unruh, contract counsel for Young Williams 
  • Candace Brewster Gayoso, guardian ad litem for Cherokee County, and city attorney for the cities of Weir, Baxter Springs, and Galena 
  • JoAnna Derfelt, a solo practitioner 
  • Douglas Steele, a solo practitioner 
  • Nathan Coleman, Cherokee County Attorney 
  • Valorie Leblanc, district magistrate judge, 6th Judicial District 

Public interviews are the next step, and the nominating commission will convene at 9 a.m. Tuesday, October 12 with interviews starting at 9:30 a.m. The meeting will be in the Cherokee County Courthouse in Columbus and is open to the public. The interview schedule will be announced once it’s finalized. 

“Anyone who attends the interviews must follow minimum standard health protocols set by the Supreme Court,” a press release from the Kansas Judicial Branch said. “These include answering questions at check-in about symptoms of or possible exposure to COVID-19, wearing a face mask while in the building, and maintaining 6 feet of physical distance from others.” 

To be eligible for the position, nominees for a district judge must be:  

  1. At least 30 years old 
  2. A lawyer admitted to practice in Kansas and engaged in the practice of law for at least five years, whether as a lawyer, judge, or full-time teacher at an accredited law school.  
  3. A resident of the 11th Judicial District at the time of taking office and while holding office. 

The nominating commission will interview nominees and then select from three to five people whose names will be submitted to the governor to fill the position according to statutory qualification and residency requirements. The governor has 60 days after receiving the names to decide whom to appoint. 

After serving one year in office, the new judge must stand for a retention vote in the next general election to remain in the position. If retained, the incumbent will serve a four-year term. 

The 11th Judicial District Nominating Commission consists of Justice Evelyn Wilson as the nonvoting chair; Sara Beezley, Pittsburg; James Cook, Parsons; Stephen Jones, Altamont; John Lehman, Girard; retired Judge Oliver Lynch, Baxter Springs; and Angela Rippel, Scammon.