Finalists chosen to fill district judge seat for Linn County

Updated: Mar 24

Three women, two from the Fort Scott area, are finalists in the process to select the 6th Judicial District Court judge for Linn County. The post came open when former Judge Terri Johnson retired on Dec. 13.

The 6th Judicial District Nominating Commission winnowed a group of six applicants down to three finalists. The finalists were announced earlier this month.

The nominating commission included Justice Evelyn Wilson as the nonvoting chair; lawyer members Richard Fisher Jr. and Ronald Wood, both of Miami County, and Zackery Reynolds of Bourbon County; and non-lawyer members Pat Apple of Miami County, Al Hurt of Linn County and Mark McCoy of Bourbon County.

The three candidates are Valorie R. Leblanc, Gayla D. Mason and Andrea E. Purvis. They all have two further interviews, including one in the next three weeks with Gov. Laura Kelly, who will make the appointment.

The governor has 60 days following receipt of the list of finalists to make her selection.

Valorie R. Leblanc

Valorie R. Leblanc of Fort Scott is a magistrate judge with the 6th Judicial District court, and she hears cases in all three counties – Linn, Miami, and Bourbon counties – in the district.

“As magistrate judge for Linn County for the past seven years I have the unique position of conducting court on a regular basis in Linn and am already familiar with the court policies and a judge’s responsibilities,” she said in a written statement.

A native of Fort Scott, Leblanc graduated from University of Kansas School of Law, and has practiced and judged for 20 years.

She said that for the past seven years she has the unique position of conducting court on a regular basis in Linn County and is already familiar with the court policies and a judge’s responsibilities. She added that she has established working relationships with many of the residents of Linn County, including the clerks of the district court, probation officers, bailiffs, law enforcement agencies of Linn, and the local attorneys.

“This established relationship and my current involvement with Linn County District Court would allow for a smooth transition with my moving to Linn County and becoming a part of the community,” she wrote.

Gayla D. Mason

Gayla D. Mason is a partner in Mason & Clark LLC, a law practice in Fort Scott. The firm works with cases including criminal and family law as well as disability and social security claims.

Citing the concern about the appropriateness of responding publicly about her candidacy for the post, Mason declined to be interviewed for this article. However, the firm’s website characterizes her as both passionate and level-headed person who listens to her clients and then does everything she can to help her clients reach their goals.

A Fort Scott native, she participates in fundraising for children through the local CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate) program, according to the website. It says she also enjoys watching her two children in their extracurricular activities and repairing and remodeling a house that was built by and belonged to her grandparents.

Andrea E. Purvis

Purvis is the county attorney for Dickinson County in central Kansas, which has a population of more than 18,000. The most populous city in the county is Abilene, which is the county seat.

In a written statement, Purvis said she began practicing criminal law in 2009, starting out in the North Central Regional Public Defender’s Office as a public defender in Geary and Dickinson Counties. She earned her law degree at Washburn School of Law after earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from Kansas State University.

She said she was the defense attorney for adult indigent clients charged with felony crimes, and she defended all types of felony cases including Jessica’s Law cases. Those are cases involving sex with minors.

In 2012, she took a position as an assistant county attorney in Dickinson County and was eventually elected as County Attorney in 2016 and was re-elected for a second term in 2020.

Purvis said she has prosecuted traffic, misdemeanor criminal, juvenile offender cases, civil care and treatment cases, civil child in need of care cases, and adult felony cases. The highest level cases she has prosecuted are murder and Jessica’s Law sexual offenses. She has had 14 jury trials and numerous bench trials.

She said she is interested in a position as a district court judge because she believes in the rule of law and has seen the positive impact judges can have in helping individuals resolve conflict.

Purvis said she grew up in a rural county, went to a high school of 100 students, and was involved in 4-H. She said that she and her husband have discussed moving back to eastern Kansas to be closer to family and friends, and that Linn County reminds her of home.

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