COLUMBIA — Local attorney Paul C. Wilson has been appointed to the Missouri Supreme Court and will fill the vacancy left by the retiring William Ray Price Jr., who held the position for 20 years.
Gov. Jay Nixon announced the appointment on Monday afternoon. Wilson was among three candidates being considered for the position.
Wilson, 51, had most recently served as a member of the Columbia law firm Van Matre, Harrison, Hollis, Taylor & Bacon P.C., and before that sat on the bench of the 19th Judicial Circuit Court in Cole County from January 2010 to March 2011.
Wilson served a short while as a judge in the 19th Judicial Circuit in Cole County after being appointed to that post by Nixon. He lost a bid for election to the bench to Daniel Green in November 2010.
Wilson also worked with the Missouri Attorney General's Office from 1996 to 2008, first as an assistant attorney general, and then as a deputy chief of staff litigation.
From 2008 to 2010, he served as a senior counselor for budget and finance and as director for the Transform Missouri Initiative, a state program started by Nixon in 2009. It was designed to "develop Missouri's human capital, enhance its transportation and information infrastructure and spark scientific and technological growth in the state."
Before serving at the Attorney General's Office, Wilson worked in private practice with the law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell in New York LLP and also clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and for Missouri Supreme Court Justice Edward D. Robertson Jr.
He graduated first in his law school class from the MU School of Law in 1992 and completed an undergraduate degree from Drury University in Springfield.
In a news release, Nixon said that Wilson had "demonstrated time and again, both his ability and his dedication to serving the people of Missouri," and that he was, "pleased to be able to name him to the state's highest court."
Craig Van Matre, a principle in the Columbia firm for which Wilson worked, was emotionally conflicted about Wilson's departure.
"I'm ambivalent about it," he said. "On the one hand, I can't imagine a better addition to the Supreme Court, but on the other hand he was valuable to our firm; I'm going to miss him."
Van Matre also said that Wilson handled complex litigation during his time with the firm and that he had worked on cases that involved the conversion of nonprofit assets, business and medical issues.
"I agreed that he would come to work with us based on the understanding that if the (Supreme Court) vacancy came up, he'd leave if he got it," Van Matre said. "I expect him to be one of the best judges that we've had on the court. He's got a tremendous feeling for justice and a keen intellect."
The other nominees for the high court were Michael Manners, a circuit judge in the 16th Judicial Circuit in Jackson County, and Stanley Wallach, an attorney with the Wallach Law Firm in St. Louis.
Wilson was unavailable for comment on Monday.
Nixon also announced the appointment of 25th Circuit Judge Judge Mary Sheffield of Rolla to the Southern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals. Sheffield will be filling the seat vacated by the retiring Robert S. Barney.
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