JEFFERSON CITY – On Jan. 15, Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan resigned from the bench to become the new United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis, a position to which he was appointed by President Obama, and for which he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
On Jan. 16, Judge Callahan’s final act as a judge was to administer the oath of office to his successor, attorney Paul Wilson, 48, who was appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon on Jan. 5. Judge Wilson will take over Judge Callahan’s docket, which includes the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) cases against former MBC agencies, including Missouri Baptist Foundation, Missouri Baptist University and the Baptist Homes.
In the announcement of Wilson’s appointment, Gov. Nixon praised his longtime colleague. “Paul Wilson will be exactly the kind of judge that the people of Cole County want and deserve,” Gov. Nixon said. “His long record of service demonstrates that he will be consistently tough on crime, fiscally responsible, and dedicated to the needs of the community that he and his family have served for generations. I have every confidence that with Paul Wilson, the people of Cole County will get a jurist of the highest caliber and a man of unquestionable moral character.”
Wilson was born and raised in Jefferson City, where he was an Eagle Scout and learned from his family about the value of public service. His father, McCormick “Mac” Wilson, served as an Associate Circuit judge in Cole County, winning election four times before retiring in 1994. After graduating from Jefferson City High School, Wilson earned his bachelor’s degree from Drury University and his juris doctorate from the University of Missouri School of Law, where he finished first in his class.
After law school, he earned prestigious clerkships for Justice Chip Robertson of the Missouri Supreme Court and for Judge Richard Suhrheinrich of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He then went to work for a top New York City law firm, but returned quickly to Missouri to pursue a career in public service.
“Cole County is an especially important judicial venue,” said Robertson. “The Cole County Circuit Court handles most of the important issues affecting state government whether they relate to taxes, utility bills, elections, and the way state government operates. Paul is especially well suited for this important judicial post. He has the experience to balance an understanding of the law with the need for justice.”
Wilson joined the Office of the Attorney General in 1996, serving there for more than 12 years. While working for the Attorney General, he was a top litigator, acting as lead counsel in a number of highly significant cases. He personally argued cases at every level of the court system, including the Supreme Court of the United States. He had several high-profile successes. Wilson successfully defended the constitutionality of Missouri’s conceal-and-carry handgun law at the Missouri Supreme Court. He also spearheaded the case that would ultimately lead to the creation of the $1.2 billion Missouri Foundation for Health, arguing the case at the trial level and at the state Supreme Court.
Wilson left Attorney General Nixon’s office in January 2009, and has since served Gov. Nixon as an adviser on budget matters and on the state’s implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Wilson was presented with the Ray Marvin Award in 2002 by the National Association of Attorneys General. The award is given to the individual selected as the outstanding Assistant Attorney General in the nation.
In addition to his legal practice in government service, Wilson has been actively involved in the community. He currently serves as an elder at the First Presbyterian Church, where he previously served as moderator of the board of deacons.
Wilson resides in Jefferson City with his wife, Laura, and with his daughters Meredith, 17, and Alice, 14.