Greene County judicial district is on track to get its first new Circuit Judge since 1976. Previous fights failed.
Over the past twenty years, Greene County has added three new Associate Circuit Judges because the number of Associate Circuit Judges per county is based upon population growth. On the other hand, Circuit Judges are ultimately based on political pull and must be approved by the Governor. The good news for Greene County is that current Governor Parsons has strong ties to Southwest Missouri and Springfield.
Circuit Judges handle felony criminal cases, as well as some civil lawsuits. Underneath the Circuit Judges are the Associate Circuit Judges. Those judges handle misdemeanor criminal cases, conduct preliminary hearings for felony cases, and work on some civil lawsuits.
County leaders say that adding a new Circuit Judge would reduce the amount of time people spend in the overcrowded Greene County Jail awaiting trial or a plea deal.
Greene County Presiding Judge Michael Cordonnier reports that it would allow the county “to divide the caseload and provide more access to judges.”
Others are not as hopeful. Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott noted his concern that criminal cases might not move any faster without adding more public defenders or prosecutors in the new Circuit Judge’s courtroom. The real problem right now, however, is not due to lack of enough Circuit Judges, public defenders or prosecutors. The real problem right now is that the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office is systematically eliminating one of the circuit judges using their right of a change of judge. One judge in particular made a ruling that their office did not like, so they are now changing out of that judge in every single criminal case for which he is assigned, causing tremendous gridlock and pressure on the other sitting Judges. Because of this, there is even more necessity to add an additional Circuit Judge.
The Greene County Courthouse already has a spare courtroom to use and the county has budgeted money to build new space for the future.
We are looking forward to Governor Parson’s decision about adding a new Greene County Circuit Judge. It will be interesting to see if adding this new Circuit Judge alleviates the overcrowding in both the Greene County courtrooms and the Greene County Jail.