MU law graduate nominated as finalist for Missouri Supreme Court

Friday, October 12, 2012 | 7:30 p.m. CDT; updated 5:39 a.m. CST, Tuesday, November 6, 2012

COLUMBIA — Twenty years after Paul Wilson graduated from MU Law School, the faculty still remembers him.

Michelle Cecil, a law professor at MU, recalled teaching Wilson in her Basic Federal Income Tax class.


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"He liked to ask really hard questions of the professors," Cecil said. "I prepared the class the best I've ever prepared a class the first time around because I always had to be on my toes."

Paul Wilson, a local Columbia attorney, was one of three finalists, along with Jackson County Circuit Judge Michael Manners and St. Louis Attorney Stanley Wallach, named by the state nominating committee Wednesday to fill a vacant seat on the Missouri Supreme Court left by Supreme Court Judge William Ray Price Jr.

"It's an opportunity to serve the legal system and the state of Missouri on a high level," Wilson said in a phone interview Thursday evening.

Having taken other positions of public service throughout his career as an assistant attorney general and a circuit court judge, Wilson sees this position as another public service opportunity.

Douglas Abrams, an MU law professor, described Wilson as smart, thoughtful, considerate and levelheaded.

"He has the right temperament to make an excellent judge," Abrams said.

Wilson received his undergraduate degree at Drury University in Springfield in 1982. Before pursuing his law degree at MU in 1989, he studied and worked as a professional actor in New York and was employed for three years with the Hilton Corp. as a data processing coordinator and operations analyst. 

After graduating from MU in 1992, Wilson's 20-year legal career has included judicial clerkships for both the Missouri Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals, 2 years as a senior associate with a New York law firm Sullivan and Cromwell, and 12 years as an assistant attorney general and deputy chief of staff for litigation under then Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, according to Wilson's application to the Appellate Judicial Commission. 

"As a practicing lawyer and as a key part of the attorney general's office, he shined," Abrams said.

After Nixon was elected Governor in 2008, Wilson served in the State Capitol as senior counsel to the Governor for Budget and Finance and in 2009 as the Director of the Transform Missouri project, which oversaw the allocation of Federal stimulus money for the purpose of creating job growth in Missouri. 

Appointed by Gov. Nixon in 2010, Wilson served for a year on the 19th Judicial Circuit Court in Cole County. 

Sara Michael, a Jefferson City attorney who tried cases before Wilson when he sat on the bench, said "He has an ability to apply complex issues of the law to everyday situations and makes the law make sense ... He has an analytical mind and the life experience to do a great job (on the Missouri Supreme Court)."

After losing the seat in an election in November 2010, Wilson started working as an associate with the Columbia law firm Van Matre, Harrison, Hollis, Taylor and Bacon.

Gov. Nixon has less than two months to decide whether to appoint one of the three candidates to the state Supreme Court. 

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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