TOPEKA — Chief Judge Van Hampton of the 16th Judicial District will retire Dec. 31.

Hampton has been a district court judge since 1995 and chief judge since 2015. He presides over cases in Ford, Clark, Comanche, Gray, Kiowa, and Meade counties.

He was appointed district judge in August 1995 and has been re-elected every four years since 1996.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as district judge," Hampton said. "I have worked with the best colleagues and staff imaginable."

Hampton also extended his thanks to Chief Justice Lawton Nuss and the Supreme Court justices and judicial branch administrators "who have been unwavering in their support and encouragement" and made his tenure enjoyable.

"During my service as judge, I devoted myself to be a student of the law and endeavored to apply the law as fairly and efficiently as possible," he said.

A Dodge City native, he graduated from Dodge City Community College in 1975, Fort Hays State University in 1977, and Oral Roberts University School of Law in 1987. He earned a master of law degree in agricultural law from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1988.

Hampton was in private practice with Patton, Kerbs and Hess from 1988 until his appointment to the bench in 1995.

In addition to his judicial responsibilities, as chief judge Hampton has had general control over case assignments within the district, as well as general supervisory authority over the administrative and clerical functions of the court.

"I have especially appreciated the opportunity to serve as chief judge of the 16th Judicial District for the last four years of my tenure," Hampton said. "The experience has taught me much about the responsibilities of authority, to be fair but firm, and to be willing to do extra work that is required without expecting others to cover it."

Hampton said he will be returning to the practice of law. He is joining friend Kurt Kerns to establish a law firm in Dodge City. They intend to focus on defending people charged with violations of the law in the United States and other countries and also will represent those involved in domestic disputes.

"I look forward to a rewarding career, doing what I have a passion to do; advocating for people who need skillful and zealous representation," Hampton said.