One of the biggest desires of the Greene County Commission is coming to pass after Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon confirmed during a Friday meeting the legislature has approved funding for a new circuit judge in the 31st Judicial Circuit, which covers only Greene County.
The last time a circuit judge was added to the 31st Judicial Circuit was 1976.
“We’re very appreciative for the leadership of both Rep. Trent and Sen. Hough and their successful efforts in procuring the first judge for the 31 judicial circuit since 1976,” Commissioner Dixon told OI. “Their leadership will enable the court and the county to better facilitate a more productive flow of the criminal justice system.”
The announcement came during a special meeting Friday between the County Commission, the Greene County Sheriff and other county office holders to discuss the proposed new jail and issues related to space on the county campus.
Commissioner Dixon mentioned the new judge could go into the current space used by the Family Justice Center. He said it was looking promising that the Springfield School District will work with the County to move the Family Justice Center into the former Tefft school on East Pythian Street. That would clear space on the second floor of the Justice Center for the new judge.
It was also noted during the meeting that while the new judge will help increase the movement of cases through the 31st Judicial Circuit, the lack of public defenders would continue to cause a backlog.
Dixon mentioned that he is currently looking at ways the County could implement a program that was passed by the legislature during his time in Jefferson City which would allow the county to contract private attorneys at a fixed rate to handle cases that involve pleadings and other cases that normally would to a public defender.
Commissioner Bengsch noted in the meeting that is if the discussed cost of $750 per case is used with the private attorneys on the projected number of cases in the program, the savings in terms of time in jail for the prisoners and other costs would cover what the county would pay in a year for the private lawyers within 250 days, meaning an overall savings to the county over the course of the budget year.
Dixon told OI that he is looking at various options for the program and hopes to “very soon” bring a proposal to the full commission.