TOPEKA—Judge Oliver Kent Lynch will retire July 30 from the 11th Judicial District after serving 16 years as a judge, including four years as chief judge.
Lynch was appointed judge in 2005. He served as chief judge from 2017 until May 31, 2021, when he stepped back from the role as he prepared to retire.
The 11th Judicial District is composed of Cherokee, Crawford, and Labette counties.
Lynch said he was inspired to become a judge after 30 years in private practice. The prospect of the career change was exciting to him.
“Hearing and deciding cases made the position attractive to me,” Lynch said. “Being a judge is very satisfying work and a great change of pace for a practicing lawyer.”
Serving as a judge also gave him a new appreciation for the public’s understanding of courts.
“I wish people knew that court cases can only be decided based on the evidence heard in court and the law that applies,” he said.
He also wishes people understood that the judicial branch is a coequal branch of government, along with the legislative and executive branches.
Lynch graduated from Baxter High School, the University of Kansas, and the University of Kansas School of Law. After law school, he had a private practice in Baxter Springs. He also worked as a county attorney and assistant county attorney with the Cherokee County Attorney’s Office.
Lynch plans to remain in the Baxter Springs-Riverton area in the old farmhouse he’s lived in for more than 40 years. He and his wife plan to travel after he retires. He also plans to catch up on his list of honey-do jobs he’s postponed and to continue his involvement in community theatre with the Cherokee County Arts Association, where he performs and builds sets.
District judges in the 11th Judicial District are appointed through a merit selection process. State statute requires a nominating commission to accept nominations, interview nominees, and forward 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.