For some it was a day months in the making, for other years and others decades. Despite how long the wait, a standing room only crowd gave thunderous applause when Marilyn M. Wilder, Hesston, was sworn in as a district court judge at the Harvey County Courthouse Jan. 7.
“This is a recent dream,” Wilder told The Kansan after the ceremony. “About three years ago when Judge (Carl) Anderson retired lawyers and judges started tapping me. I had never considered it before.”
Jan. 7 she became the first woman sworn in as a judge for Kansas Judicial District No. 9. The district serves both Harvey and McPherson Counties.
Wilder told the Kansan that being the first female judge in the history of the district is not important to her — though it is important to others.
That importance was seen Jan. 7, as those in attendance not only applauded for her robing but also fought tears of joy.
Judge Joe Dickenson told the Kansan while it seems strange that the first female was finally sworn in during 2016, it was simply circumstance.
“There was a period when not many women were going to law school,” Dickenson said. “That has changed. It takes time for people to become qualified to judge.”
The selection process for the position began in July of 2015 when a commission began meeting to evaluate who might take the bench of Richard Walker. Walker retired in August of 2015.
The commission started the process with 10 names, whittling the list down to a pair before sending those recommendations to Gov. Sam Brownback.
“Any of the candidates would have done a capable job and been a good judge,” Dickenson said. “... The Governor was in a position, thanks to our committee, to not being able to make a bad choice. … We have reached a point that gender did not matter. Marilyn was qualified and got the job.”
Wilder has practiced as a lawyer in Newton for 25 years with Adrian and Pankratz. She initially started with the firm working on some special projects, but became part of the team at the firm and remained for more than two decades.
She is a graduate of the Indiana University School of Law and Taylor University.
This was the second time she applied for the position. She first applied in 2013 when Carl Anderson retired. She applied again when Richard B. Walker retired his position with the district court.