A Washington attorney will be taking over as circuit court judge for Franklin, Osage and Gasconade counties.
Ryan J. Helfrich, a partner at Helfrich Hotz Brandt LLC, will serve in the 20th Judicial Circuit position formerly held by Judge Ike Lamke. Helfrich was one of five statewide judicial appointments made Dec. 30 by Gov. Mike Parson.
Helfrich, 41, has practiced law since 2006. He said the process of applying and being considered for the judgeship has been “quite an experience.”
“I’m very humbled by the opportunity that I’ve been provided by the Governor’s office,” he said. “I’m ready to jump in and get to work.”
The process of filing paperwork and being interviewed took close to two months.
“During the process, I’ve received an enormous amount of support from my friends and family throughout this community,” he said. “I’m very thankful for all of that.”
Lamke retired Dec. 15, five days before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Helfrich will fill Lamke’s seat for the remainder of his term, which ends at the end of 2022. Helfrich is also running for a full six-year term.
“I was planning on running for that seat no matter what the outcome with this appointment,” Helfrich said.
Helfrich has a bachelor of science degree in community and regional planning from Missouri State University and a juris doctorate degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. He is a lifelong resident of the area and a graduate of Union High School.
Helfrich met his wife, Betsey Helfrich, an attorney who represents school districts, at UMKC. They have two children, ages 10 and 7.
Ryan Helfrich said he sees the law as a helping profession. “I enjoy meeting people, I enjoy working through problems with people,” he said. “And there’s really no better profession that I can think of that allows you to deal with people on so many levels and of so many different ages and backgrounds than being a lawyer.”
Helfrich said he owes a great deal to attorneys Tim Melenbrink, Matt Schroeder, Jonathan Downard and the late Ed Stierberger, whose Union firm hired him as a second-year law student, he said.
Downard described Helfrich as a “quick learner,” adding he is the second person to work at his firm to go on to become a judge, joining former Associate Circuit Court Judge Michael Brown.
In 2009, Helfrich opened his current Washington practice with Ben Hotz. They were joined by Jacob Brandt as partner in 2018.
While Hotz has been able to continue with the practice since being elected to the county’s part-time municipal court judge position in 2020, circuit judges and associate circuit judges cannot continue to practice law, Helfrich said.
After getting the call from the governor’s office Thursday, Helfrich went to Minnesota with his son over the weekend to see the St. Louis Blues play in the Winter Classic.
“I’m still thawing out from that, but, today, I started the process of really winding (down) my practice,” Helfrich said Monday. “A lot of that will just be handing things off to my partners Jake and Ben, who will take it and go from there.”
Helfrich expects to be sworn in as circuit judge Jan. 21 by Associate Circuit Judge Stanley D. Williams. Also expected to be on hand is Circuit Judge Craig Hellmann.
Helfrich has a goal of creating efficiencies in the court system that are beneficial to both attorneys and litigants, he said.
“I’m going to be firm when I need to be, I’m going to be empathetic when that is required,” he said. “But I’m always going to do my best to apply the law fairly, and I will always do it in a respectful manner.”