Governor Laura Kelly today appointed Lesley A. Isherwood to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of former Court of Appeals judge Steve Leben. Isherwood lives in Wichita and is a Senior Assistant District Attorney in Sedgwick County.
“Ms. Isherwood has devoted her career to serving Kansans as a prosecutor, and she has become one of the most experienced appellate litigators in our state,” Governor Kelly said. “She will bring to the Court of Appeals not only that wealth of experience but also a love of her community and of serving others. She will be an excellent Court of Appeals judge.”
Isherwood has been a prosecutor in Sedgwick County since 1999 and now serves as a Senior Assistant District Attorney in the Appellate Division. She has argued more than 100 cases before Kansas appellate courts and has authored over 1,000 appellate briefs. Upon graduating from Washburn University School of Law in 1998, she briefly practiced law at Williams, Stroble, Malone, Mason & Ralph, P.A., in Dodge City. She earned her B.A. in English, with honors, from Washburn University in 1995.
Isherwood serves her community with the Kansas Children’s Service League, the Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland, and she has served in leadership positions with the Junior League of Wichita and Dress for Success. She is a member of the National District Attorney’s Association, the Kansas County and District Attorneys Association, and the Wichita Bar Association. In 2012, the Wichita Business Journal named her to its “40 Under 40” list.
“I have enormous respect for the judges of the Court of Appeals, and I am honored to have the opportunity to serve alongside them,” Isherwood said. “As a prosecutor, I’ve approached the law as an advocate for public safety, but part of my job as an appellate attorney has been to see the law and the facts from multiple perspectives. My job as a Court of Appeals judge will be to sort through those perspectives and ensure that in each case the law is applied as written, fairly and without bias.”
Isherwood’s appointment is subject to Senate confirmation and her materials are being forwarded to the Senate. Before 2013, Court of Appeals judges were not subject to Senate confirmation and were selected by the governor from a group of finalists named by the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. Because Governor Kelly favors that merit-based selection process, she created the Court of Appeals Nominating Commission, a committee of knowledgeable lawyers and non-lawyers tasked with recommending finalists for the Court of Appeals vacancy.
The nominating commission initially forwarded three candidates for Governor Kelly’s consideration: Isherwood, Russell Keller of Fairway (private practice attorney), and Carl Folsom of Lawrence (Assistant Federal Public Defender). After the Senate failed to confirm Folsom’s appointment, the commission advanced Judge Rhonda Mason of Olathe as an additional candidate.
“Since the Court of Appeals Nominating Commission was created a little over a year ago, it has been quite busy,” Governor Kelly said. “I appreciate the hard work the commission has put into identifying the best and brightest in our legal community. I also thank Judge Mason and Russell Keller for their continued service to our state and legal community.”
The Governor and Isherwood are eager to work with the Senate to ensure a smooth, efficient confirmation process during the 2021 legislative session.