A nominating commission on Wednesday sent the names of two prosecutors and a Lawrence defense attorney as finalists to Gov. Mark Parkinson to replace Douglas County District Judge Jean Shepherd, who is retiring.
After interviews Monday and Tuesday, the committee’s short list includes private practice attorney Barbara Kay Huff, a past judicial finalist; James R. McCabria, an assistant Douglas County district attorney; and Angela M. Wilson, a former Douglas County prosecutor who now is a deputy Kansas attorney general.
The three were selected among 13 Lawrence attorneys who applied for the vacancy. Shepherd, the county’s first female judge, has decided to retire when her term ends in January.
The nominating panel includes three lawyers and three nonlawyers. Kansas Supreme Court Justice Eric Rosen is a nonvoting member and chairman.
Shepherd was appointed in 1984 and primarily handles family law and juvenile cases. Chief Judge Robert Fairchild said the district’s judges will see whom the governor appoints before deciding how to assign the family law caseload.
The governor has 30 days to appoint one of these finalists to the position:
Barbara Kay Huff
Huff has had her own Lawrence law practice since 1991 and taught part time as a clinical professor at the Kansas University School of Law from 1992 to 1997.
Before starting her private practice she served as a public defender in Olathe and as a criminal appeals attorney in New York from 1985 to 1988.
Huff’s career started in 1982 as an attorney with the central staff of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. She earned her bachelor’s degree in 1979 from Reed College in Portland, Ore., and her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1982.
Huff was also finalist in 2008, the last time a Douglas County judicial position came open. Then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius selected Sally Pokorny to replace retiring Judge Jack Murphy.
Before becoming an assistant Douglas County district attorney in 2006, McCabria served as an assistant Kansas attorney general from 2001 to 2006. Before, he was in private practice beginning in 1994 after he earned a law degree from the University of Tulsa. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1991 in criminal science from Ohio State University.
McCabria helped prosecute the retrial in 2008 of Lafayette Cosby after the Kansas Supreme Court sent back the original 2004 first-degree murder conviction in the case. Cosby was again convicted of first-degree murder for shooting and killing Robert Martin at a party at a Lawrence apartment.
Wilson moved to the attorney general’s office in 2008 after serving 10 years as an assistant Douglas County attorney. Before that, she worked in private practice with a Topeka law firm after graduating in 1997 from law school at KU. She has also served as a central staff member of the Kansas Court of Appeals before becoming a prosecutor.
In Douglas County in 2005, Wilson helped prosecute and win a conviction in the case of Kansas State University professor Thomas Murray who was accused in the 2003 murder of his ex-wife, Carmin Ross, at her home northwest of Lawrence. Wilson also represented the state later when the Kansas Supreme Court upheld Murray’s conviction.