Election Connection: Judge - Circuit 26 Division 3

Left to right: Judge Aaron Koeppen, Jeffery Green and Richelle Christensen Grosvenor.

The following three Q&A candidates are running for the position of Judge in Circuit 26 Division 3. They will be on the August 4 ballot in Camden County. 

Judge Aaron Koeppen

“My name is Aaron Koeppen. I have been serving as an Associate Circuit Judge in Camden County for nearly a decade. In that time, I have presided over nearly 30,000 cases of all types, from misdemeanor offenses, to murder. I preside or have presided over cases in Camden, Laclede, Miller and Morgan Counties. In my time as Judge I led the effort to establish specialized treatment courts such as the Veterans, Drug and DWI treatment courts. Our Veterans Treatment Court serves all five counties in our circuit. I currently preside over these specialized treatment courts.

Prior to becoming a Judge I was both a defense attorney and a prosecuting attorney. My background gives me perspective and helps me serve as a fair and impartial Judge. I am also an adjunct college professor. For more than ten years I have taught college courses such as Business Law, Business Ethics, American Government, Criminal Law, Criminal Evidence and Criminal Procedure at OTC in Lebanon and Columbia College in Osage Beach. I am a Rotarian. I currently serve on the board of the YMCA. I also helped lead the effort to establish the Constitution Teams for School of the Osage and Camdenton High Schools.

I have been married to my wife Nancy for more than twenty years and we have five amazing children. My family, my Christian Faith and service in our community define who I am.

I love our community and want to do my part to make it a better place to live. This is why I am running for Circuit Judge. I would appreciate your vote on August 4th.”

1) What motivates you to serve as Judge for the 26th Circuit?

“I care about our community and I want to make it a better place to live for my family and yours. One way I feel I can do this is by defending and preserving our Constitution. Our quality of life in our community is closely tied to our liberties. If we allow the principles set out in the Constitution to be eroded, we lose the freedoms that define who we are as Americans. As an Associate Circuit Judge I took an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution. As a Circuit Judge I will continue to fulfill my oath and do my part to preserve our Constitution and our liberties. “

2) What community programs do you feel we have or need to address repeat offenses?

The biggest challenge I have seen and will continue to see in my judicial career is the growing drug epidemic. Over the years, as a former defense attorney, then prosecuting attorney, and now Judge handling thousands of drug related offenses, I observed people caught in a vicious cycle of criminal behavior due to addiction. The cost to our community from drug related crimes is astronomical. The justice system, historically, has not a done a good job dealing with these issues. This is why I led the charge to establish a specialized treatment court for our Veterans, Drug and DWI offenders in our entire 26th Judicial Circuit. This approach is more fiscally and socially effective at solving this major societal problem. These courts serve all five counties in our circuit and I currently preside over the Veterans Court as well as the Camden County Drug and DWI Courts. We have seen an outpouring of support from businesses and individuals in our community that have joined our effort to fight the drug problem through the use of these programs.

3) What do you perceive as the greatest obstacles to justice, if any?

The eroding of the principles set out in the Constitution is the greatest threat to undermining our justice system in this country. When we forget that the people are the true sovereign and that the legitimacy of our government depends on the consent of the people, then we run the risk of watering down the most important American principle, which is that the true power resides with the people and that the government we formed is to serve according to the perimeters we established in the United States Constitution. Closely tied to this is the understanding that our most fundamental rights are granted to us by our Creator. The Constitution places limitations on the government’s ability to limit or infringe upon these rights. When we fail to defend and uphold the principles set out in the Constitution we risk losing our freedoms that define who we are as Americans like free speech, freedom of religion, right to peaceably assemble, right to bare arms, right to a presumption of innocence and so on. The preservation of a free America depends on our resolve to defend and uphold the US Constitution and its principles. My oath to defend and uphold the Constitution is the most important commitment I make as a judge.

4) Camden County experiences a backlog of cases, what actions will you take that will help resolve the issue?

I currently serve as Associate Circuit Judge in one of the busiest divisions in our circuit and state. It is not uncommon to handle more than 3000 cases each year. Necessity quickly taught me that I needed to find ways to improve the efficiency of docket management. I began a series of changes in Camden County that has substantially improved the efficiency of time standards. I eliminated unnecessary settings for cases. I streamlined the communication stream between the parties and the Court. I implemented dispositions by mail or attorney for a greater number of cases. I consolidated certain dockets to allow for more trial setting options. These are just some examples of things I have done to improve the efficiency of case management in my division. I am constantly exploring new ways to improve the efficiency of our justice system.

5) What are your plans as far as addressing any racial inequalities that either exist, or may come to fruition, in the judicial process under your control?

I will continue treat all persons that walk into my courtroom equally, irrespective of race, religion or any other characteristic or classification. Of all the places in the world, a court of law is the one place were equality should reign. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution protects all persons and ensures that all will be protected equally by law.

Jeffrey Green

Jeff is a graduate of Tipton High School, received his Associate of Arts from State Fair Community College and his Bachelor of Science from Central Missouri State University.  He was employed by McDonnell Douglas Corporation in St. Louis for 14 years where he obtained his Juris Doctorate from St. Louis University night school.   He has practiced law for 24 years and has served the 26th Circuit for 20 years, maintaining offices in Osage Beach and California. Jeff and Debbie, his wife of 35 years, have 3 daughters and have been lifelong members of the United Methodist Church.       

Jeff has experience in the following legal areas:

  • Part time Prosecuting Attorney for 17 years and Criminal Defense 

  • Real Estate Disputes, Easements, Rights-of-Way, Eminent Domain, Department of Natural Resource 

  • Personal Injury, Medical Malpractice and Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

  • Discrimination, Insurance Claims, Contract Disputes, Manufacturing and Construction Disputes

  • Condominium and Timeshare, Home Owner and Neighborhood Associations  

  • Adoptions and Representing Parents and Children in Juvenile Cases 

Jeff Volunteers as a Board Member and/or Legal Counsel to the following charities:

  • Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition

  • Grace Living Center

  • Ivy Bend Community Food Pantry

  • Miller County SB-40 Board  

  • Morgan County SB-40 Board   

1) What motivates you to serve as Judge for the 26th Circuit?

The Honorable Peggy Richardson is retiring and the position of Judge of the 26th Circuit Court, Division III, is open. I believe it is imperative to have highly experienced and qualified judges in our circuit in order to maintain a high degree of respect by our peers. Our Circuit Court is one of the largest geographical circuits in the State of Missouri encompassing five counties; Moniteau, Miller, Morgan, Camden and Laclede. With one of the major tourist attractions in the Midwest, much less the State of Missouri, set in the middle of the circuit and surrounded by more rural communities along with the manufacturing and transportation businesses of Laclede County, the breadth of cases is extensive. The integrity of our 26th Circuit Court is affected by the decisions and judgments rendered, the respect and dignity shown to the legal community and the citizens of this State, and professionalism and fairness experienced by the visitors and investors in our businesses. I want to help assure the 26th Circuit Court continues to improve and become a place all persons know they will be treated fairly and respectfully, while having knowledgeable and experienced Judges hearing their respective cases.

2) What community programs do you feel we have or need to address repeat offenses?

With the emphasis on “community”, I feel we do not have enough, and/or they are not given enough opportunity to flourish. Many of our very successful community programs are geared toward helping and assisting victims of crimes, we have very little that helps our criminals. Sure, there are programs for offenders, but most all come at a cost, and often times those costs are prohibitive for those that need the assistance. If we could establish no or low-cost programs to help address those who made a bad choice, it would be very beneficial. I am a founding member and President of Grace Living Center, a program in Moniteau County for Women with Addictions. This program has been very successful in assisting women in getting their addiction addressed, obtain gainful employment and often has resulted in reunification with their families and children. In addition, we make our offenders attend a SATOP/DWI course, or a Victims Impact Panel program, or other similar program to help them better understand the impact of their actions. I propose we bring some or all of these programs to our schools. It would be preferable to get this information into the hands of folks BEFORE they commit the crime instead of after. That might help address the first problem and avoid the consideration of a repeat offender. And more information related to sex abuse, sex trafficking and other similar activities might help prevent our young adults from becoming victims, who also appear to be criminals. I believe a much stronger approach to preventing the activities that lead to criminal behavior is a better focus than to wait until the problem happens and then work to correct it. A further benefit of prevention is that our number of cases decreases which in turn helps us with our backlog.

3) What do you perceive as the greatest obstacles to justice, if any?

The biggest obstacle to Justice in our Circuit is the backlog of cases. Prosecution of criminals is done on behalf of the citizens of our community, county, and state. Having cases last as long as ours do is not providing our citizens a sense of Justice. Our victims of crime, who frequently have to wait years for a final determination in their case, does not feel like Justice. And the length of time from the time a defendant is arrested to the time the case is disposed of is also not Justice for those accused. Civil cases endure the same issues in the amount of time it takes to complete a case. By and large, most civil cases will settle with maybe 5% of all cases actually going to trial. But if you are the person who’s house was damaged and insurance won’t pay, or who was involved in a traffic accident, or medical malpractice case, or whose property road or drive is being blocked, taking years to get a case resolved is simply not the Justice one is looking for. All of this leads to a backlog of cases, which in turn takes more time to address the additional cases, which results in less time to dispose of cases, and the endless loop continues.

4) Camden County experiences a backlog of cases, what actions will you take that will help resolve the issue?

There are many things that contribute to the backlog of cases we currently experience. I want to explore the possibility of extending and improving the use of some of the technologies forced upon us due to the COVID-19 Pandemic to move cases more quickly. I believe our Court will need to become more “virtual” to address the continued increase in cases. In addition, I plan to review the current schedule of resources to determine if there is a more efficient way of handling our dockets. Our Circuit is not able to schedule enough trial dates to dispose of cases. Defendants in both civil cases and criminal cases have a very good understanding of this situation and use it to their advantage to delay trials. Unless and until we create an environment that a case will get tried much sooner than it does today, our dockets will continue to be backlogged. There is no question that our Circuit, with five Counties and the number of cases filed, should have additional judicial resources. This position I am attempting to fill is the result of an expansion three years ago when our Circuit finally obtained the 3rd Circuit Judge. As it is unlikely that additional resources will be allotted to our Circuit anytime in the near future, we must become more creative in the allocation of our current resources. And as unique as we might be, I’m certain this is not a new problem. I would ask for input from current and past Circuit Judges across the state to help identify possibilities to address this backlog. One thing is certain; the current state of affairs is not resolving the problem and we must do something different than we are currently.

5) What are your plans as far as addressing any racial inequalities that either exist, or may come to fruition, in the judicial process under your control?

Lady Justice is blindfolded holding the Scales of Justice. The reason for that is to depict that Justice is blind and the scales shall balance based not on sight, but on facts. Nothing should interfere with a decision a Judge makes and a Judge must be aware of that at all times. I am the only candidate that is endorsed by the NAACP; not because I agree with all their causes and actions, but because the President of the Missouri Chapter knows that any person that comes before me will be treated fairly and any decision will be based on facts and not any bias, be that race, gender, age, religion or other classification that might arise. We must hold our law enforcement agencies to a high standard of care in order to protect every citizen of our community. Unfortunately, about the only way to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions is to disallow evidence that is obtained improperly or due to conduct that cannot be condoned. It is not always a matter of whether there are actual inequalities, but the simple appearance of inequalities can create the perception of unfairness. I will not allow even the appearance of favoritism, unfairness or any inequality to permeate the Courtroom. Allowing that to occur is an Injustice. Similar to the question above regarding community programs to address repeat offenders, if you prevent inequalities from the beginning, you don’t need to worry about addressing them when they occur. The fact that a plan is needed to address an inequality if it occurs is a clear indication there is a problem. I believe it better to prevent the problem from occurring than to address it after the fact.

Richelle Christensen Grosvenor

I am Richelle Christensen Grosvenor and I am running for Circuit Judge in the 26th circuit. The 26th Circuit includes Laclede, Camden, Morgan, Miller and Moniteau Counties. Circuit Judge Peggy Richardson is retiring and I am running to fill her spot. Circuit judges handle most of the felony criminal cases, along with a civil docket.

-My campaign stands out from my opponents because I am not accepting campaign donations, of any kind. I believe a judge must be free from the perception of outside influence and I don’t want to owe anyone anything.

-I have 20 years of legal experience as a prosecutor, defense attorney, trial attorney, civil litigator and as a judge. My husband, Rob and I, live and work in the circuit. We share three children, two of whom also live and work here. The third is in the Air Force, recently returning from a deployment to Jordan. I am active in my church and am involved with the Pregnancy Help Center and Operation Christmas Child. For more information: Richelleforjudge.com or Richelle for Judge on facebook.

1) What motivates you to serve as Judge for the 26th Circuit?

I want to DO something, not BE something. I am running for judge because I believe in the important role that judges have in our communities and I want to give back and make a difference. I do not view the circuit judge position as a stepping stone to another position, but as an opportunity to protect law and order in our communities. I have 20 years of legal experience. I have worked as an elected prosecutor, as a defense attorney and as a civil litigator. I have served as a chief deputy assistant prosecutor, municipal judge, associate circuit judge, defense attorney – all in the 26th circuit. I have extensive courtroom and jury trial experience.

I have done jury trials in murder, assault, robbery, burglary, stealing, drug manufacturing and distribution cases as well as DWI and animal abuse cases. I have tried cases as both a prosecuting attorney and a defense attorney. I have also had trials as a civil litigator, representing children and parents. And, I have extensive experience working with victims, defendants, and their families. I currently practice in all five counties in the circuit. I am a small business owner with two office locations. Because my family and I live and work here, the communities of the 26th circuit are important to me. I will put my experience as an attorney and as a judge to use on the circuit bench to make our communities better.

2) What community programs do you feel we have or need to address repeat offenses?

Keeping communities safe will be my priority as circuit judge. As a prosecutor, dealing with repeat offenders was constantly an issue. In the worst case scenario, I was the chief deputy assistant prosecutor on a murder case where the individual had been paroled from prison after serving time on a murder charge. Within ten months of his parole, he killed three people. He was a repeat offender of the worst kind. I worked with the elected prosecutor on the case to ensure he would not have the opportunity to live outside of prison. He is now serving three life sentences, without the possibility of parole. On the other hand, there are other types of crimes that may be considered differently when dealing with repeat offenders. One of those situations is addiction-related issues. Treatment courts have been used by judges since the 1990’s to help offenders stop the addiction cycle. I was hired as the Camden County Chief Deputy Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in 2009. Prior to that, I was in private practice. I practiced in areas that had treatment courts. When I began working in Camden County as a prosecuting attorney, there was no treatment court in any county in the circuit. I was excited about the possibility of having the benefit of treatment courts in our circuit. I saw how they helped individuals, their families, the communities they lived in and the tax payers. The cost of housing non-violent offenders is a huge burden on tax-payers. The first treatment court did not begin in our circuit until the end of 2017. Residents of the 26th circuit should not have to wait years and years for good ideas to be implemented in our communities.

3) What do you perceive as the greatest obstacles to justice, if any?

Justice delayed is justice denied. That applies to both the defendant and the victims in a criminal case. The 26th circuit certainly has unique challenges. One of the main challenges is the backlog of felony criminal cases. The circuit is large, consisting of five counties. For years, there were only two circuit judges trying to cover all five counties. Each circuit judge was in each county every other month for criminal dockets. In comparison, some counties have a circuit judge available on a daily basis. Thankfully, now there are three circuit judges in our circuit. Each county has a circuit judge there twice a month. I recognize that our circuit has an obligation to keep cases moving, and at the same time treat each case individually. I also have the benefit of a law practice that covers the entire circuit, and other circuits as well. What this means is that I have the opportunity to see how each court and individual judges operate and would be able to implement good ideas in my courtroom. When discussing justice, we must also remember the victims. Our family had an experience of being a victim of a property crime. My husband’s truck was stolen off the parking lot where he works. Law enforcement officers recovered his truck but the person who stole it drove it in a high speed chase with the officers after stripping it. There was over $10,000.00 of damage done to our truck. Being a victim of a property crime, along with my extensive experience as a lawyer and judge, gives me a unique perspective and understanding of the importance of the role of circuit judges in the criminal justice system.

4) Camden County experiences a backlog of cases, what actions will you take that will help resolve the issue?

My main priority for improving the efficiency of the judicial system is simple. I will be available to the attorneys and I will work the hours necessary to move cases through the system. As I stated above: I recognize that our circuit has an obligation to keep cases moving and at the same time, treat each case individually. I have the benefit of a law practice that covers the entire circuit, and other circuits as well. What this means is that I have the opportunity to see how each court and individual judges operate and would be able to implement good ideas in my courtroom. I have the experience voters want in maintaining control over the court and case load management. Having judicial efficiency is important, there is no question about that. But there are times that cases require additional time. As a prosecutor, I had a case where the victim of a brutal murder was a three-year old girl. She was literally beaten to death by her mother’s boyfriend. It took a long time to get the case through the system as the defendant had requested a jury trial. No matter how long it took, I knew that I had to do my job to ensure that justice was done. After the jury found him guilty of murder and child abuse, her killer received a life sentence. Some cases simply require more time. The importance of seeking justice must be the priority.

5) What are your plans as far as addressing any racial inequalities that either exist, or may come to fruition, in the judicial process under your control?

Any inequality in the courts is a concern for me as a judge. My Christian faith is my foundation. I will be a judge with integrity. I will be fair and impartial. I will listen to the parties that appear in front of me. I will be considerate of tax-payer dollars. I understand there are economic and social consequences of judge’s decisions. My training and experience will be invaluable dealing with challenges to the court. I believe the Constitution is the bedrock of our legal system and that belief will guide and inform my decisions.