Ira Kent Wells 1925 - 1934

Ira Kent Wells  1925 - 1934Ira Kent Wells was born in Seneca, Nemaha County, Kansas on June 18, 1871, the third of six children of Abijah Wells and Loretta C. Williams, who had married on October 18, 1866. Abijah Wells had been one of the early pioneers in Nemaha County, Kansas. He had raised himself from a humble position to become one of the county's leading lawyers and financiers, the editor of the Seneca Tribune, and, in 1896, Judge of the Court of Appeals to represent the East Division of the Northern Department of Kansas. Judge Wells' father was an important influence on him.

Judge Wells attended schools in Nemaha County and received his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Kansas in 1893. Early in his legal career, he served as City Attorney of Seneca, Kansas and as Nemaha County Attorney. He practiced law in Seneca, Kansas with his brother Frank; they then became associated with their father in the Wells & Wells law firm.

Judge Wells married Zula M. Thompson, of Seneca, Kansas on April 4, 1895; they raised two daughters, Loretta and Dora H. He was active in politics and became a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1916. He served in the Judge Advocate General Corps from 1917 to 1920, and in the Office of the Provost Marshal of the Panama Canal Department.

In 1921, President Warren G. Harding named Judge Wells to be the United States Attorney for Puerto Rico, a position he held until 1924. On December 8, 1925, President Calvin Coolidge appointed Judge Wells to the district court for a four-year term. He was again appointed in 1929 by President Herbert Hoover. Two of the worst hurricanes to hit Puerto Rico occurred during Judge Wells' terms of office: San Felipe on September 13, 1928 and San Ciprian, which hit the Island September 26-27, 1932.

Judge Wells left office on January 29, 1933. On January 25, 1934, counsel for the National City Bank of New York, in receivership proceedings involving the United Porto Rican Sugar Company, questioned the validity of certain decrees emitted by Judge Wells on January 25, 1933. The decrees allowed the sugar company's supply creditors to enjoy preference on certain claims, and the bank wanted to set the preferences aside. The bank argued that Judge Wells was no longer a judge when he signed the decrees because he had received a message from Assistant Attorney General Charles E. Steward stating that Robert A. Cooper had executed the oath of office as Judge Wells' successor. Opposing counsel argued that the Justice Department's suggestion did not relieve Judge Wells of his office. In fact, Judge Cooper took the oath of office on January 29, 1933. Judge Cooper held two days of hearing on the questions whether Judge Wells was a judge on January 25, 1933 when he signed the decrees. [The result of the hearings is being researched.]

A few days after he left the bench, Judge Wells became ill and was hospitalized. He died in San Juan, at age 62, on April 2, 1934.