Judge Ben Hotz

Judge Ben Hotz in his office in Washington’s historic Anton Jasper House. Hotz plans to continue serving as an attorney while working the part-time municipal court position.

Ben Hotz’s law firm saved a historic home from demolition two years ago, renovating the Anton Jasper House and turning it into contemporary law offices.

Now, Hotz is presiding in another refurbished structure -— the Franklin County Historical Courthouse.

Hotz, 39, was elected as the county’s municipal court judge Nov. 3. He was scheduled to have his first court session Thursday, Jan. 7, in the third-floor Edward A. Stierberger Memorial Courtroom.

Municipal court deals with cases that aren’t considered felonies or misdemeanors, like traffic citations and code violations for planning and zoning and health and building cases. But since many people deal with those citations before it gets to the courtroom, he said those who take the case to court deserve to be taken seriously and treated fairly and with respect.

“People don’t show up to municipal court if they don’t care about the case,” Hotz said. “I think (treating people fairly) goes a long way toward creating an environment that’s good for the courtroom.”

In August, Hotz earned the Republican nomination for the municipal judge post by defeating incumbent A. David Arand by 88 votes. Hotz worked at the same firm as Arand when he entered the law field 14 years ago and considered him a mentor.

Arand was appointed to the municipal judge position in January 2020 after Gael Wood resigned one year into his four-year term.

Hotz went on to defeat Democrat Bill Stahlhuth in the November general election by a more comfortable margin — more than 18,000 votes.

Two Jobs

Hotz is staying with his law firm, Helfrich Hotz Brandt LLC, since municipal court is only held two nights a month, though that could increase slightly. The part-time position pays $15,000 a year.

He looks forward to seeing things from the other side of the bench. “I’ve been wanting to get involved with serving as a judge for a while now, but I enjoy my position as an attorney,” he said. “This position allows me to do both.”

The law firm is based at the former home of what is believed to be Washington’s first blacksmith. The firm bought the house in 2018 after it was under contract to be demolished.

“We were able to get involved and save it,” Hotz said. “I’m extremely happy with how it turned out.”

The firm opened the building, originally built in 1853, in August 2019. The home had been divided into four apartments, with the interior staircase removed and access to the second floor only available from outside.

The renovation involved putting in a new staircase in the location of the home’s original one.

Hotz and Ryan Helfrich started the firm in 2009 and were joined as partner by Jacob Brandt in 2018. The firm was located in Union before the move to the Anton Jasper House.

“I’m from Washington,” Hotz said. “I’ve always wanted to have an office here.”

Hotz, a graduate of St. Francis Borgia Regional High School, got his undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri before getting his law degree from Saint Louis University in 2006. His law firm is a general practice and Hotz deals with criminal defense, DWI, traffic and divorce-related cases.

Initially, Hotz went to college with the intention of following his father into dentistry. “I took my first biology class and realized it wasn’t for me,” he said.

Hotz found the law field appealing as a way to still help people. 

He was sworn in Dec. 30 by Circuit Court Judge Craig Hellmann, a former Washington and Franklin County municipal court judge, in a small ceremony with his wife, Maggie, and three children in attendance. 

“Ben will serve the county well,” Hellmann told The Missourian.

When he’s not working, Hotz enjoys playing golf and fishing with his son, Ben Jr., 8. 

Hotz said he isn’t planning to run for a higher office. “As of right now, I’m just focused on this position.”