Why do you aspire to be an Associate Circuit Court judge for the 24th Judicial Circuit?
ANSWER: I have found that I am talented at, and also very much enjoy, spending time in a courtroom, in addition to legal research and writing. As a Judge, I would be able to spend a large amount of my time in these two pursuits, and would be able to spend my time in the courtroom.
How would you describe your judicial philosophy?
ANSWER: I have waited this long in my legal career to run for Judge (mid-year this year will begin my 20th year of practice) so that I have had enough experience as an attorney to do the job of being a Judge correctly. I have learned from my appearances in front of many trial judges in the State of Missouri and State of Kansas; in the Missouri Court of Appeals; in the Missouri Supreme Court; and also in various municipal courts. I believe that a Judge should not be an activist Judge, and should apply the law as it is written, and as it has been interpreted by the higher courts. I believe that a Judge should stay up to date on the changes in the law, but also be open to reviewing the law as provided by the attorneys in front of them. I believe that a Judge should always stay calm, and should treat the attorneys, litigants, witnesses and any other persons that come before the Court with understanding and respect, as appearing in Court can sometimes be the most difficult day of a person’s life. Additionally, I believe that a Judge should not be afraid to correct themselves if they are wrong about some fact in a case, or if they are wrong about some interpretation of the law.
3. What, in your view, constitutes a sound judicial temperament? Describe why you feel you possess the qualities of a sound judicial temperament.
ANSWER: I am an extremely calm attorney while in Court, and also a very calm person in general, even while I am zealously advocating for my Clients. I have had a large number of Clients tell me that my calmness in Court has helped them feel much better about the court process. In my opinion, it is important that a Judge be calm, but also firm, and that in speaking to a Judge the parties are reassured of the Judge’s competence. A Judge need not be rude to parties to get their point across. I am a level-headed down-to-earth person, in part, because I grew up poor in a large family. I was the first person in my family to receive even a Bachelor degree. I do not think that I am better than other people, and I do not treat other people in Court this way (as can happen in Court sometimes), but instead I think of myself as just a normal person. Some of my favorite Judges have also come from a humble beginning.
4. What is the proper role of the judicial branch within Missouri's system of government?
ANSWER: It is a Judge’s role to interpret and apply the law as it is written. A Judge should not seek to be an activist judge, but rather should look to the intent of the legislature, the Missouri Supreme Court Rules, and should also look to case law to guide how he/she will make decisions in different cases.
5. Describe the general nature of your legal practice during the past ten years, including typical clients or matters, and identify any areas of concentration.
ANSWER: In October 2010, I opened my own private law office in St. Francois County. Since this time, I have practiced in a broad range of areas. I have worked on general civil matters, probate matters, juvenile abuse/neglect matters, juvenile criminal/delinquency matters, criminal defense, and domestic cases. I have had experience in a number of appellate matters, and in the last year I have worked on appeals in the areas of: restraining orders, multiple termination of parental rights appeals and also one probate appeal. Since 2013, I have also worked as a Municipal Prosecutor in Park Hills, Farmington, and then in Bismarck, and I have also previously worked in the Municipal Prosecutor's office in Topeka, Kansas.
6. Describe the general nature of your legal practice prior to October 2010, including typical clients or matters, and identify any areas of concentration.
ANSWER: I was hired at a large lawfirm in downtown Kansas City right out of law school. I gained bench and jury trial experience at this large lawfirm, where I practiced in the areas of insurance defense, construction law, product liability and premises liability litigation. While working at this large law firm I also assisted in handling an appeal of a $2.2 billion plaintiff’s verdict, which resulted in the conversion of case into a class action and a subsequent successful settlement for the Defendant. In 2004, I moved back to this area to be closer to my family in Jefferson and St. Francois Counties. My Mother and my Mother's family are from Desloge, and my Mother and my siblings currently reside in the Festus area. From 2004 until 2010, I worked at a small law firm in Hillsboro (Kramer & Hand), where I practiced in the areas of all family and juvenile law, which included restraining orders, dissolution, paternity, modification, custody, administrative child support, adoption, guardianship, termination of parental rights, juvenile and other civil litigation. My practice also included general civil, municipal traffic, personal injury and also mental health/commitment matters. I tried a large amount of trials while at this position, and was nominated for a Lon O. Hocker award while at this small law firm. Also, while at this small law firm I represented Clients in multiple cases in front of the Missouri Eastern District Court of Appeals and also two cases in front of the Missouri Supreme Court (one appeal and one writ).
Prior to graduation from law school, I worked for a sole practitioner in the small town of Lawrence, Kansas, where I assisted the sole practitioner with creditor’s rights, probate and small business cases. During law school, I was appointed and sat as municipal judge for two years for the University of Kansas municipal court system during some three judge panels. During law school, I worked for the City of Topeka, Kansas, in the City Prosecutor's Office. I also worked for the Douglas County, Kansas, Legal Aid Clinic, where I represented indigent Clients whom were not able to afford to hire an attorney.
Additionally, prior to attending law school, and while I was still pursuing my two Bachelor of Arts degrees, I was also employed at the Polycystic Kidney Research Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri.
7. Describe the most important factors that you would consider when issuing a sentence in a criminal case.
ANSWER: Among other factors, I would also consider:
(1) whether the crime was a violent crime. A criminal Defendant whom has committed a violent crime should not be able to walk into a courtroom to face sentencing, only to walk right back out again so he or she can commit another crime. This is especially true when the victim of the crime is put in danger by the release of the Defendant.
(2) whether the victim of the crime and the Defendant are or were involved in a romantic relationship currently or whether they were previously involved in a romantic relationship, and also whether the victim and Defendant have any children in common. Additionally, I would consider whether a weapon was used in the commission of the crime. If this is the case, then there is a much greater likelihood of additional and continued violence, and this poses a threat to the public, and also to the victim.
(3) the least restrictive condition or combination of conditions needed to ensure the Defendant’s appearance in court, and also to protect the public safety. There is currently a great amount of debate about the Missouri Supreme Court’s new bond rules. It is my intent to allow the legislature and the Missouri Supreme Court to further flesh out these rules, and it is my intent to apply these rules as they have been written. It is not my intent to be an activist judge, as that would certainly not be my role. It would be my duty, instead, to apply the rules so as to best protect the public and any victims of crime.
8. Please describe what unique qualifications, accomplishments or character traits you possess that merit your election to the 24th Judicial Circuit Court.ANSWER: Later this year will begin my twentieth (20th) year of practice as an attorney. I have practiced long enough and in enough different areas of the law to provide me with a strong base for future judicial decisions. Yet, I feel that I am still young enough that if I take the bench now I will be able to serve the people of St. Francois County for years to come. I have experienced private practice at a large law firm, a small law firm, and also as a sole practitioner. I have both represented Defendants in criminal matters, and have also prosecuted Defendants. I have worked as a Guardian ad Litem for children, and have also represented all of the various players in both juvenile and domestic cases. I have taken general civil and also probate matters to trial, and I have also taken them up on appeal. I have both filed and have defended Trial De Novo’s and have represented Clients in administrative matters. Additionally, I have known the other attorneys whom regularly appear in this circuit for more than ten (10) years now, which I believe would be helpful to me while I am on the bench.