JEFFERSON CITY — Clay County Circuit Judge James Welsh was chosen Wednesday by Gov. Matt Blunt to fill a vacancy on the Missouri Court of Appeals.
Welsh, 59, of Liberty, has served as a circuit judge for 19 years and also has worked in private legal practice.
Blunt said Welsh “brings a wide range of experience and expertise that will be invaluable” on the Western District appeals court. He will replace Judge Edwin Smith, who left the court this summer to join a law firm in St. Joseph.
Welsh was one of three nominees submitted in late August to the governor by the Appellate Judicial Commission, which screens applicants under Missouri’s judicial selection process. The other candidates were Kansas City attorney Alok Ahuja and Lee’s Summit attorney Cindy Reams Martin.
Welsh told The Kansas City Daily Record that Blunt informed him last Friday that he would be appointed.
“It’s a brand new day for me,” Welsh said for an article published Wednesday, before Blunt’s official announcement, “and I’m looking forward to it.”
Welsh said moving from the trial court to an appellate court will be a considerable change.
“I enjoy spending the time necessary to understand a legal problem,” Welsh told The Daily Record. “On the trial bench you’re not always accorded that time — you have to make a lot decisions from the saddle.
“I’ve just got to make sure I correctly give discretion to the trial bench that it deserves,” he added. “I sure don’t feel like I’m being sent there to second guess the trial bench, but to ensure the proper standards are used.”
The 11-member Western District appeals court, which covers 45 counties, still will have two vacancies due to the retirement of Judge Robert Ulrich and the appointment of Judge Patricia Breckenridge to the Missouri Supreme Court last month.
Welsh received his law degree from Saint Louis University. He was made a circuit judge in November 1988. Before that, he served from 1985-1988 as an associate circuit judge; as a Liberty municipal judge from 1983-1985; in private legal practice from 1976-1985; and as a law clerk to Western District appellate Judge William Turnage from 1975-1976.
Welsh also has a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics.