EL RENO – For more than 20 years, Paul Hesse has been standing before judges, pleading his cases.
In the near future, Hesse, the first assistant district attorney for Canadian County, will be sitting behind the bench.
Wednesday, Gov. Mary Fallin appointed the 20-year prosecutor to be the newest Canadian County district judge. The appointment was effective immediately.
Hesse, who lives in Mustang, was one of three candidates for the position vacated by the retirement of District Judge Gary E. Miller in October. The other candidates were Associate District Judge Bob Hughey and Special Judge Jack McCurdy II.
Fallin said Hesse, who supervises five attorneys in Canadian County, is ready for the responsibility of being a judge.
“As a prosecutor for more than 20 years, Paul Hesse has proven himself as a talented and skillful attorney committed to upholding the law,” said Fallin. “He will serve the state well during his time as a Canadian County district judge.”
Hesse earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma and a law degree from the University of Oklahoma.
Hesse said Thursday that he was surprised by the appointment.
“I was surprised. There were two other very qualified candidates, who have served the county for the last 10 years. For the governor to appointment, it was a surprise,” Hesse said.
Hesse, who was responsible for handling most of the serious felonies in Canadian County, said he doesn’t expect that he will need to recuse himself from many cases.
“Only the cases in which I had a substantial role,” he said.
Hesse said his role as a prosecutor will help him as he transitions into his new job.
“I have had some unique experiences as an assistant district attorney over the last 20-plus years that will be beneficial as a judge. … I have tried as many cases as anyone in this time,” he said.
In addition, he has served as the county’s attorney in civil matters and has death penalty case experience.
Hesse said he never planned on becoming a judge. His initial plans were to work as an attorney in the finance industry. However, his experience as a juror in a first-degree murder trial lead him to his work as a district attorney.
“I never believed I would be in the position I am in now as a prosecutor. It just happened,” he said. “It was never my goal to be a judge.”
The man Hesse is replacing said the assistant district attorney is a good choice.
“I’ve never seen him unprepared for hearings or trials. I think Paul will do a wonderful job. I think it is a good appointment. I’m excited for him,” Miller said.
Hesse said he was planning to visit with court officials this week about when would begin his new job.
Meanwhile, Fallin has signed legislation that will add a second district judge to Canadian County in 2019.
That position will be filled in the November 2018 election. Hesse also will have to seek a full term in 2018.