Paul Wilson formally installed as Supreme Court judge

While his wife, Laura Wilson, holds the bible, the Honorable Paul C. Wilson repeats his oath of office as the newest member of the Missouri Supreme Court.

While his wife, Laura Wilson, holds the bible, the Honorable Paul C. Wilson repeats his oath of office as the newest member of the Missouri Supreme Court.

Paul Wilson has been working since January and, Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Teitelman noted, already has “participated in hearing or deciding more than two dozen cases.”

But the high court’s newest judge was installed formally Friday afternoon with many from his family, his new colleagues and Gov. Jay Nixon — his former boss — watching and participating in a nearly two-hour program.

Nixon named Wilson to the court Dec. 3, after considering the three nominees the Appellate Judicial Commission gave him in October, as required by the Nonpartisan Court Plan.

“Once again I was presented with a panel of candidates whose qualifications as attorneys and jurists were exemplary,” Nixon said. “Making a choice from among the three excellent options may be a challenge, but it is never a hardship.”

After graduating first in his University of Missouria Law School class in 1992, Nixon noted, Wilson clerked for a year for then-Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Edward D. “Chip” Robertson, before heading east for several years.

Wilson was hired to work in Nixon’s attorney general’s office when he returned to Jefferson City in 1996.

“Three things become apparent very quickly when you interact with Paul on legal matters,” Nixon told more than 200 people watching the ceremony from the main courtroom and two “overflow” locations with closed-circuit televisions. “His keen intellect on the law — and on a host of other subjects, I might note. His strong sense of ethics.

“And, at a core, his deep love of the law.”

Robertson noted: “If you were to take Paul’s resume and give it to any neutral person who cared about the law, you would say that this is a person who ought to be on the Supreme Court.”

Jefferson City lawyer Chuck Hatfield was one of Wilson’s law school classmates and, later, a coworker in the attorney general’s office for seven years.

Hatfield later tried cases in front of Wilson during 2010, when Wilson was a Cole County circuit judge, and they were opposing counsel in some cases during the last couple of years, while Wilson was a private-practice attorney in Columbia.

“I’ve always been impressed by (his) amazing work ethic and intellect (and) an ability to cut through on the issues that eluded the rest of us,” Hatfield said.

Karen King Mitchell, now a judge on the court of appeals in Kansas City, first worked with Wilson when he joined the attorney general’s office in the summer of 1996.

He was willing to tackle some of the state’s most difficult cases, she said.

“Paul is one of the most determined people I’ve ever met,” she said. “No matter how much he expected of others — he expected more of himself.”

Although mostly serious, the ceremonies also had jokes, laughter and light-heartedness.

During his half-hour “rebuttal,” Wilson offered numerous “Thank Yous” to his family, teachers, co-workers and colleagues for helping him become the man he now is — a man who’s reached his “dream” job.

“I have been enriched immeasurably,” he said.

Wilson succeeded former Judge William Ray Price Jr. on the state Supreme Court.

“When Judge Price announced that he would retire last year, there was the usual discussion and debate over who would apply to fill the resulting vacancy, who would be nominated and who would the good governor appoint?” Teitelman noted. “Would the new judge come from an urban area or from a rural area? Would the new judge be conservative or liberal?

“Should the new judge have judicial experience, or be a practicing attorney? If a practicing attorney, should the new judge be a corporate transaction lawyer, a litigator or a government attorney?

“When Gov. Nixon appointed Judge Wilson to join the court, the governor answered ‘Yes’ to all these questions.”

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