Attorneys Ben Hotz, Washington, and A. David Arand, Union, worked at the same law firm at one time and now are squaring off in the Republican primary for Franklin County municipal judge.
The winner of the contest will face Democrat Bill Stahlhuth, Labadie, in the November general election.
Arand, the incumbent has served on the municipal bench since January, when he was appointed by Presiding Judge Ike Lamke after the abrupt resignation of Gael Wood, who served only one year of his four-year term.
Why are you running for this office?
Arand said in addition to the technicalities that come with adjudicating the law, he enjoys being the municipal judge.
“I am running to continue the work I have been doing since I took over in January 2020,” Arand said. “To bring this court into complete compliance with Supreme Court mandates and guidelines.”
Hotz said he enjoys serving the community and has for many years since moving home from law school.
“I began speaking with my wife about running for this position after Judge Wood resigned, and we made the decision to go for it,” Hotz said. “In my legal profession there aren’t a lot of guarantees one can make, but I feel confident in saying that, if elected, I will ensure that every person who enters the courtroom is treated with dignity and respect as I believe that is one of the judge’s primary duties.”
What problems do you think need to be addressed in Franklin County?
Hotz said the issues surrounding COVID-19 are the most pressing and require immediate attention so residents can adequately plan on how to raise and educate their children, while at the same time feeling secure in their employment.
“These issues may not be directly within the scope of the position for which I am seeking election,” Hotz said. “However, it is important that any judge, serving in any capacity, understands and empathizes with the problems we all share as residents of Franklin County and makes sure that the policies adapted by the court are not based upon impulse, popularity or outside influence.”
Arand said a problem with the court has been the implementation of the Show Me Courts system, which will integrate the Case Net Program to allow the public, defendants, attorneys and other interested parties to access court information without contacting the court directly.
“The problem has been the backlog of requests to the Office of the State Court Administrator (OSCA) from other municipal courts for assistance in implementing the program,” Arand said. “Our court is scheduled to receive that assistance in late 2020.”
Arand said since he took over in January, the Franklin County Municipal Court has been acquiring the necessary forms, files and other documentation to hit the ground running when the program is installed.
“Once integrated, that program will streamline the court reporting requirements to the state of Missouri and provide an accurate, accessible record for all matters involving the court,” Arand said.
Hotz agreed public access to municipal court documents and information will be a priority.
“State courts implemented this system several years ago and the transition to e-filing has been extremely beneficial for attorneys, judges, court staff and litigants,” Hotz said. “Franklin County Municipal Court information is not currently accessible on the Case.net website. If elected, I would plan on taking steps to implement this case management system in our municipal court if possible.”
Why should residents vote for you?
Hotz said this is the only judicial position for which he is seeking election and he doesn’t currently serve as a judge in any other municipality. He said that will allow him to focus attention on his role, duties and responsibilities as municipal court judge for Franklin County without having to be concerned with other administrative responsibilities in other courts. “I believe it to be a critically important role of the position to be proactive in establishing a fiscally responsible budget for the court each year. The judge for Franklin County Municipal Court is tasked with more than just sitting on the bench and making decisions on cases. I obviously don’t know each and every reader out there, but I would think those who do know me and have supported me would tell a prospective voter that I’ll put as much effort into the position as I have this campaign.”
Arand, who has served as Union’s municipal judge since 2010, St. Clair’s municipal judge since 2011, and as current Franklin County municipal judge since January 2020, said his experience is key in his re-election.
“This question is better directed to those who have appeared before me whose comments to me and those who work in my courts indicate a confidence that each of them and their matters were handled fairly, impartially, respectfully, and with a clear understanding of the applicable law and facts,” Arand said.
What in your opinion is the most important issue facing Franklin County?
Arand said from a broader perspective Franklin County must stand strong against current challenges and remain a county that promotes a respect for law and order and protection of the constitutional rights of all its citizens.
Hotz believes the most important issue facing Franklin County is treatment of those individuals suffering from untreated mental health disorders and drug addiction, namely opioids.
“As a practicing attorney, I have seen the toll it takes on those addicted to drugs, their families and the people around them,” Hotz said. Unfortunately, I have had several clients die from drug overdoses and know families who have suffered for years with their loved ones who suffer from addiction. As an elected official, if asked to provide input with other locally elected officials and department heads to discuss local policy, I believe these to be issues which require the utmost attention.”