Deep dive into Court of Appeals candidates

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A special nominating commission created by Gov. Laura Kelly will meet next week to interview candidates for a seat on the Kansas Court of Appeals.

Kelly has the unilateral authority to pick an appeals court judge with Senate confirmation.

However, she’s opted to use a nominating panel similar to the one used to pick Supreme Court candidates.

A nominating commission had been used to pick Court of Appeals candidates until the law was changed in 2013.

Kelly has opted to stay with the system used before the law was changed.

Kelly’s commission will recommend three candidates for the governor to choose from to replace Judge Steve Leben, who is retiring June 27. The interviews are March 19 and 20 in Wichita.

Here are bios on the 22 applicants for the position:

Daniel Cahill
District court judge, Wyandotte County
Experience: Has been a judge since 2007 for the 29th Judicial District, which covers Wyandotte County. He hears child-in-need-of-care cases. From 1996 to 2000, he was an assistant district attorney for Wyandotte County. He was in private practice until he became a judge. Since 2008, he has chaired the Supreme Court Task Force on Permanency Planning. He is a previous governor of the Wyandotte County Bar Association and a member of the Juvenile Law Advisory Committee and Membership Committee of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. He twice unsuccessfully sought a seat on the Kansas Supreme Court.
Education: Bachelor’s and law degrees from Washburn University.

Kristafer R. Ailslieger
Deputy solicitor general, Kansas attorney general’s office
Experience: Colonel, U.S. Army Reserve; research attorney at the Kansas Court of Appeals; prosecutor intern at the Johnson County district attorney’s office. He twice unsuccessfully sought a seat on the Kansas Supreme Court.
Education: Master’s degree in strategic studies, U.S. Army War College; law degree from Washburn University; master’s in political science, Wichita State University; bachelor’s degree in political science, Wichita State.

John F. Carpinelli
Lawyer, Topeka
Experience: Member of the Workers Compensation Appeals Board since 2012. Attorney at Benfer, Owen & Carpinelli from 1996 to 2012.
Education: Received bachelor’s degree from Loras College and a law degree from Washburn University.

Henry R. Cox
Lawyer, Shawnee
Experience: Specialized in commercial and business ligation for more than 30 years with a focus on traditional labor law, employment law and civil rights representing plaintiffs and defendants. He focuses on arbitration and mediation services in a number of legal areas involving employment, labor, civil rights, professional malpractice, personal injury, securities, institutional abuse, intellectual property, construction and land use.
Education: Earned a law degree in 1981 from Washburn University and a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University.

Timothy L. Dupree
Wyandotte County judge, Kansas City
Experience: Served as a district court judge in Wyandotte County since 2015. He was in private practice from 2008 to 2015. He also served as an assistant county attorney in Lyon County from 2004 to 2008.
Education: Received an associate degree from Kansas City, Kan., Community College and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas. Earned his law degree from Washburn University.

Bach Hang
Lawyer, Wichita
Experience: Associate at The Douglas Firm since November 2019. Also worked as an assistant public defender for the Sedgwick County Public Defender’s Office in 2018 and 2019.
Education: Law degree from Washburn University School of Law and a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Missouri in Columbia. Also has a paralegal certificate from Webster University.

Rhonda K. Mason
District judge, Johnson County
Experience: Has served on the Johnson County bench since 2016. She was the managing attorney for Geico Insurance Co.; worked for the Mason Law Firm; worked for Foland, Wickens, Roper, Hofer & Crawford; worked for Allstate Insurance Co.; worked for the Jackson County, Missouri, prosecutor’s office; and worked as a law clerk to Missouri Appeals Court Judge Thomas H. Newton.
Education: Bachelor’s in history from Oakwood University; law degree from Washburn University.

Lesley Isherwood
Lawyer, Wichita
Experience: Senior district attorney in Sedgwick County. She has worked in the district attorney’s office since 1999.
Education:  She graduated with a bachelor’s degree and law degree from Washburn University.

Angela Coble
Lawyer, Salina
Experience:
U.S. District Court attorney; partner at Kennedy Berkley Yarnevich & Williamson; summer associate at Shook, Hardy & Bacon; judicial externship for the U.S. District Court in Kansas; quality control analyst for the U.S. District Court in Kansas; and a docket clerk in the U.S District Court clerk’s office. She twice unsuccessfully sought on a seat on the Kansas Supreme Court last year.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and psychology from Kansas Wesleyan University; law degree from Washburn University.

Randall L. Hodgkinson
Lawyer, Topeka
Experience: Visiting assistant professor of law at Washburn University School of Law; Kansas Appellate Defender Office; Law Offices of Stephen M. Lee in Kingman, Arizona; judicial research attorney at the Arizona Court of Appeals; Sedgwick County public defender in Wichita. Hodgkinson is licensed to practice in Kansas, Missouri and Arizona, before the Ninth and Tenth circuits, and before the U.S  Supreme Court.
He is a member of the Kansas Judicial Council Appellate Procedure Advisory Committee and co-chairs the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Tenth Circuit Amicus Committee. He twice unsuccessfully sought on a seat on the Kansas Supreme Court.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in math and computer science from Wichita State University; law degree from Arizona State University.

Diane Sorensen
Lawyer with the Wichita firm Morris Laing Evans Brock & Kennedy.
Experience: Practice focuses on employment litigation in state and federal court. Her work ranges from enforcing noncompete agreements to discrimination claims. She counsels employers on employment law, handling of administrative complaints, drafting of employment contracts, conducting on-site investigations and training managers.
Education: Bachelor’s degrees in secondary education, English and math from Kansas State. She received her law degree from the University of Kansas. She is now a finalist for the Court of Appeals seat that will come open with the retirement of G. Joseph Pierron Jr. on April 3.

Steven J. Obermeier
Assistant solicitor general, Kansas attorney general’s office
Experience: Former longtime prosecutor with the Johnson County district attorney’s office, he has written more than 1,300 appellate briefs and argued hundreds of cases in Kansas appellate courts, according to the Kansas Bar Association. He lost out for a position on the Kansas Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court last year. He is now one of three candidates being considered for a second opening on the Supreme Court. He is one of the attorneys of record in nearly 300 published opinions. He wrote a chapter in the 2007 and 2013 editions of the Judicial Council’s Kansas Appellate Practice Handbook. He recently was a finalist for a seat on the Kansas Supreme Court.
Education: Bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Kansas; law degree from Washburn University.

Suzanne Valdez
University of Kansas Law School professor
Experience: Worked as an attorney with Kansas Legal Services in Kansas City, Kansas. She served as a pro tem judge in Douglas County District Court and as a special prosecutor with the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office. Valdez also has a part-time practice focusing on civil litigation. She was a member of the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy. She won the Foulston & Siefkin Excellence in Appellate Advocacy Award.
Education: She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and a law degree from the University of Kansas.

Amy Cline
Lawyer with Triplett Woolf Garretson in Wichita
Experience: Practice focuses on commercial litigation, including contract, oil and gas, employment, construction and consumer protection. She represents landowners and independent oil and gas companies. She also counsels municipalities on oil and gas leasing issues. She represents employers and employees in unemployment, wage and discrimination disputes before the Kansas Department of Labor, Kansas Human Rights Commission and U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She is now a finalist for a seat on the Kansas Court of Appeals.
Education: Earned a bachelor’s degree from Wichita State and a law degree from the University of Kansas.

Dennis Depew
Deputy attorney general, chief of civil litigation division for Kansas attorney general.
Experience: Leads the 12-attorney civil litigation division in the attorney general’s office, representing the state in tort claims, contractual matters, and when a state official or agency is sued. Also manages the cases in which the office hires outside counsel. Attorney/partner at Depew Law Firm. He was a finalist for a seat on the Kansas Supreme Court last year.
Education: Bachelor’s of science in business administration and law degree from the University of Kansas.

Russell J. Keller
Lawyer, Fairway
Experience: Now serving as a law clerk for Judge Mary Beck Briscoe on the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Served as assistant attorney general/unit leader for litigation at the Missouri attorney general’s office; attorney and partner for business, securities, antitrust and appellate litigation at Stinson LLP; attorney for business, antitrust and securities litigation at Sidley Austin LLP in Chicago; and law clerk for U.S. District Judge John F. Grady in the Northern District of Illinois. He twice lost out in a bid for a seat on the state Supreme Court.
Education: Bachelor’s in political science and a master’s in communication studies from Northwestern University; law degree from Northwestern.

Sarah Loquist-Berry
General counsel, Sedgwick County Area Educational Services Interlocal Cooperative.
Experience: Attorney for the Kansas Association of School Boards; attorney/owner, Law Office of Sarah J. Loquist; assistant general counsel, Wichita Public Schools; attorney, Hinkle Elkouri Law Firm.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in education from Pittsburg State; law degree from Washburn University.

Marcia A. Wood
Lawyer, Wichita
Experience: Attorney and partner with the Martin, Pringle, Oliver, Wallace and Bauer law firm. Her practice “consists primarily of brief-writing, both at the trial and appellate levels,” according to the firm’s website. She provides research and writing in a variety of areas, including medical malpractice defense, product liability, and commercial and employment litigation. She also has experience in municipal and commercial finance. She lost out last spring for a spot on the Kansas Court of Appeals. She also applied for two openings on the Kansas Supreme Court.
Education: Bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Kansas.

David J. Rempel
Lawyer, Overland Park
Experience: Clerk for U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum from 1996-98 and 2008 to present. He unsuccessfully sought a seat on the Kansas Supreme Court last year.
Education: Bachelor’s in English from Yale University and law degree from the University of Kansas.

Carl Folsom III
Assistant federal public defender in Topeka
Experience: He worked as an assistant federal public defender in Oklahoma after working in private practice for about three years. He also worked in the Kansas appellate defender office, handling criminal appeals for indigent defendants. He is now a finalist for a seat on the Kansas Court of Appeals.
Education: Earned bachelor’s and law degrees at the University of Kansas.

Kristen D. Wheeler
Lawyer, Wichita
Experience: Law clerk to U.S. District Judge Thomas Marten. She has worked with the Robinson Law Firm in Wichita, focusing on business advising and litigation, real estate advising and litigation, small-business representation, intellectual property protection, consumer protection, foreclosure defense, contracts and environmental law. She also was of counsel to Morris, Laing, Evans, Brock & Kennedy. She also applied for openings on the state Supreme Court twice.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas in biodiversity, ecology and evolutionary biology; law degree from Washburn University.

Michael P. Joyce
District court judge, Johnson County
Experience: He has served on the 10th District Court since 2012. The Leawood resident worked for Van Osdol, Magruder, Erickson & Redmond, which later became Van Osdol & Magruder. He also worked at the Joyce Law Firm and Koenigsdorf & Wyrsch, which later became Wyrsch, Hobbs, Mirakian & Lee. He has twice applied for a seat on the Kansas Supreme Court and lost out.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Creighton University; law degree from the University of Houston.