Place of residence: Columbia
Occupation: Assistant Boone County Prosecutor; Sturgeon City Prosecutor; adjunct professor at Columbia College
Political experience: None
Education: Bachelor of arts in psychology from the University of Kansas; Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas
Opponent: Josh Devine
What makes you the best candidate for the position?
I have over 18 years of courtroom experience. I have worked for the Kansas Public Defender System, Kansas Legal Services (more commonly known as Legal Aid), the Missouri Attorney General’s office and the Boone County Prosecutor’s Office. My entire career has been dedicated to public service and becoming our next Associate Judge would allow me to continue to serve our community. I have conducted over 120 trials, including 8 homicide trials here in Boone County; handled over 300 appellate cases, including 12 appeals in the Missouri Supreme Court (a place many attorneys go their entire careers without reaching); and have practiced both civil and criminal law.
Those are my legal credentials but my personal experiences are why I am so committed to serving our community. I am a single mom working 3 jobs to make sure my two boys have the best opportunities possible. My legal and life experience are why I know how my decisions as a judge would impact real people. It is why I will constantly strive to do what is fair, what is equitable, and what is right.
If elected, how do you plan to approach the job?
It matters who our judges are and when a person comes into the courthouse they need to know that the judge they are appearing in front of will treat them with dignity and respect. To guarantee that, we need judges with the right legal and life experience to know what impact their decisions have on real people and consequently can make the right decisions. Whether it is a criminal case or a civil case, for the individuals involved, that case is likely one of the biggest moments in their lives. It is easy to forget that a minor infraction or property dispute can greatly impact the lives of many people. I understand that. I will listen to each case before me, whether it is the first one I hear when I start my dockets or the two hundredth, and make sure that it receives the individual attention and respect it deserves.
What are the most pressing issues in our criminal justice system?
Currently, I believe there are two main challenges. The most pressing issue in our Boone County criminal justice system is the Public Defender Wait List. Due to increased caseloads, funding constraints, and not enough Public Defenders, indigent criminal defendants are currently placed on a waitlist. Because of the waitlist, criminal defendants have to wait months for an attorney to be assigned to them, which leaves them in limbo. This limbo affects their families and their livelihoods. The waitlist also negatively impacts crime victims who have to wait months for justice. The Boone County Courts along with the local private defense bar, the Prosecutor’s office, and the Public Defender’s office (who are some of the best in the State), have worked to alleviate the strains on our public defenders. However, we should do more. As the next Associate Judge, I will work with my colleagues to review all options that might help with this problem so that our community is properly served.
Secondly, drug addiction is a major issue I see in our courts. As an active member of our Treatment Courts (e.g. Drug Court, Mental Health Court, Veteran’s Court) for over seven years, I have seen the impact that addiction and mental health can have on individuals and families in our court system. Early detection and intervention can break cycles and save lives. Drug addiction and mental health issues, if left unaddressed, can devastate communities. I care deeply about tackling it by helping people get healthy and clean.