TOPEKA—District Judge Mike Ward will retire March 7 from the 13th Judicial District but then begin work as a senior judge for the Kansas judicial branch.
"It has been my great honor to serve as district judge for the people of Butler, Greenwood, and Elk counties," Ward said. "These last 21-plus years on the bench have been challenging, rewarding, and educational."
Ward has been a district judge since 1999.
"I will miss the trial work and my association with the dedicated men and women who work in our judicial district," Ward added. "But I look forward to the new challenges that await me as a senior judge assigned to work with the Kansas Supreme Court."
Ward most recently sat with the Supreme Court as a visiting judge in October and also has served on panels of the Kansas Court of Appeals.
As a senior judge, Ward will work on an as-needed basis in district and appellate courts statewide. He is scheduled to sit with the Supreme Court for their March 23-26 docket. The Supreme Court is short a justice due to the retirement of Chief Justice Lawton Nuss in December, and a replacement has not yet been named.
Ward graduated from the University of Kansas School of Law in 1980 and worked in the enforcement division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Kansas City, Mo. In 1983 he returned to his hometown of El Dorado where he was in private practice and also joined the prosecutor’s office. From 1983 to 1999 he served first as an assistant county attorney and then as county attorney for Butler County.
Since 2000 he has served on the Pattern Jury Instructions for Kansas criminal and civil committees, which reviews changes in the law and incorporate those changes into jury instructions for use in all district courts. Ward has chaired both committees for several years. He also served on the Supreme Court Client Protection Fund Committee from 2012 to 2018.
In 1995 Ward was recognized by the Kansas County and District Attorneys Association as the state’s outstanding prosecutor, largely for his work in successfully prosecuting a number of high profile first-degree murder cases.
Ward and his wife, Lissa, have five children and five grandchildren who live across the country. He said with his retirement from the full-time district judge position, they hope to spend more time visiting their children's families and returning to Scotland and Ireland, which they have visited several times. Ward also plans to spend more time golfing, hunting, and fishing.
District judges in the 13th Judicial District are elected by partisan ballot. State statute requires the governor to select a replacement to complete a vacated term of office. Ward was reelected to his sixth four-year term in 2018.