Major changes are coming to the bench in Franklin County.
Two judges are nearing mandatory retirement age in the 20th judicial district, which also includes Gasconade and Osage counties, and a third has yet to decide if he will run for another term in 2022. Even the circuit court clerk does not expect to run again.
Presiding Circuit Court Judge Ike Lamke turns 70 on Dec. 20, and he will have to retire by that date because of mandatory retirement with the state.
“My intention is to think about exactly what day I will retire between now and Dec. 20,” he said. “I will notify the governor and give him an opportunity to appoint a judge to fill my position temporarily until the next election.”
Lamke, who has been on the circuit court bench since 2010, is interested in serving as senior judge until Gov. Mike Parson appoints someone to his position.
“Senior judges can be appointed on a case-by-case basis or might have to stand for a period of time, depending on the situation and the need,” Lamke said. “So I will make myself available for a period of time, I’m not sure how long, to help out until a successor is appointed. After that, I’ll have to reflect and make some decisions about what I’m going to do next.”
Associate Circuit Judge David L. Hoven, who will reach mandatory retirement age in March 2022, told The Missourian he prefers to wait until early next year to comment.
Gov. Mike Parson’s office is aware of the pending retirement of the two judges, his communications officer, Kelli Jones, wrote in an email to The Missourian. Once formal retirement paperwork is received, the governor’s legal team will coordinate with the presiding circuit judge and determine what dates the position will be posted on the state Boards and Commissions website.
The governor’s office will accept applications for the judgeships during that time, and the legal team will interview applicants, Jones wrote.
The governor then makes a selection based on background information and interviews.
The judges are retiring at a time when courts are facing backlogs after jury trials were not held for more than a year.
“Almost every institution or business has been somewhat upended by the COVID experience,” Lamke said. “But I believe that the courts here in Franklin, Gasconade and Osage counties, their personnel, together with the help of local law enforcement, have done a very, very good job of keeping the judicial system operating.”
Clerks, prosecuting and public defenders offices, private attorneys and the juvenile office have worked hard to keep the legal system operating, Lamke said.
The governor’s office seeks to have new judges in place as soon as possible, Jones wrote.
“The governor’s legal team strives to move as expeditiously as possible, within the confines of due diligence, in order to avoid extended gaps in time between the retirement and when the governor makes an appointment,” she wrote. “The goal being to avoid exacerbating any docket backlogs that exist.”
Although Judge Stanley D. Williams, who turns 64 this month, can still serve another full four-year term before having to deal with mandatory retirement if he is reelected in 2022, he is undecided on whether he wants to run.
Williams does not have to make a decision until early next year, he said.
“I’m not at that magic number where I have to retire, but I’ve been doing this for 25 years,” he said.
And Circuit Court Clerk Bill D. Miller said he does not plan to run for an 11th term. He might even hang it up before he reaches 40 years in office at the end of his term in 2022.
“I think it’s time for somebody else to take over,” Miller said with a laugh.
Miller, who turns 66 this month, also lost his brother in recent years. They both developed diabetes at age 5, and he said that could impact whether he finishes his term.
“You know we’re not going to live forever,” he said. “COVID has changed a lot of things. I’m not sure if I’ve decided to retire, but I’m pretty much worn out. I’m tired.”
Lamke is still processing the thought of what he will miss about serving as a full-time judge.
“There probably will be (something I’ll miss), but I don’t know if I am able to grasp it at this time,” he said. “One thing I will miss is the very, very good people here in the courthouse and at the courthouses in the other counties. They are very dedicated and committed to making this system work.”