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TOPEKA—Chief District Judge Gary Nafziger of the 2nd Judicial District will retire January 11 after 38 years of service.

He became a district judge in 1982 and was appointed chief judge of the 2nd Judicial District in 2005. The district is composed of Jackson, Jefferson, Pottawatomie, and Wabaunsee counties.

"I'd like to express my appreciation to Jefferson County for making me and my family feel at home, and to the 2nd Judicial District for welcoming me into the bar," Nafziger said. "I'd also like to express my appreciation to all of the people that worked with me in the court system throughout the years. I was touched by their devotion and dedication to their work."

Nafziger came to Jefferson County in 1972 as an intern for the county attorney's office. After graduating from law school in 1973, he became the assistant county attorney for Jefferson County in 1974. Nafziger then served as the part-time county attorney from 1974 to 1981 while simultaneously maintaining a private law practice.

Nafziger said he was inspired to become a judge because of his interest in trial work.

"During the time I was the county attorney and in private practice, I found I was really drawn to trial work. The search for truth through the litigation process intrigued me, and I knew that as a judge I could participate in many trials. I also knew that as a judge I could focus on doing the right thing for the plaintiff, the defendant, and society under the Constitution rather than advocating solely for my client's interests," he said.

One of the most satisfying things about being a judge was "walking away from a trial after a verdict believing I'd done everything I could under the law to assure that each side was treated fairly and impartially and was able to present their evidence, confront witnesses, and be heard," he said.

Nafziger also enjoyed introducing young lawyers to the law, encouraging them and assuring them as they "gained experience and confidence and matured into experienced litigators."

During his time as a judge, Nafziger conducted moot court trials with students, spoke to student groups about the Constitution and functions of the court system, and taught criminal justice as an adjunct faculty member for a community college. He also served on select assignments with the Kansas Court of Appeals and the Kansas Supreme Court.

Nafziger's advice for lawyers considering becoming a judge is to "consider the consequences for you and your family that may not be obvious at first. Particularly in a rural area, serving as a judge can be isolating. Your social life and ability to participate in certain events and organizations will be limited due to the judicial requirement of impartiality. Also, be aware that the expectations of the judiciary have changed as our society has evolved. Some of the issues you are expected to decide are not clear-cut and can be very controversial."

Nafziger was raised on the family farm near Cuba, Kansas. He graduated with a degree in business administration in 1967 from Kansas State University, where he participated in the advanced ROTC program and was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army. He went on active duty after graduation and served as an Army officer in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. He earned his law degree from Washburn University School of Law in 1973.

Nafziger and his wife, Janice, have been married 52 years. They raised two daughters in Ozawkie and have three grandchildren.

Nafziger said he is looking forward to the freedom of not being committed to a schedule arranged a year in advance as judicial calendars require. He intends to stay active in the law and may conduct mediation, settlement conferences, and take select cases.

District judges in the 2nd Judicial District are appointed following a merit selection process. State statute requires a nominating commission to accept nominations, interview nominees, and forward the names of finalists to the governor, who appoints a replacement. After serving one year in office, the new judge must stand for a retention vote in the next general election to remain in the position. If retained, the incumbent will serve a four-year term.

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