Two Counties to Move Circuits Under Court-Backed Plan

Supreme Court Chief Justice George W. Draper III on Jan. 22 formally unveiled the judiciary’s plans to move two rural counties into new judicial circuits.

In his State of the Judiciary speech before a joint session of the Missouri House and Senate, Draper said the court system recommends moving Benton County, now part of the 30th Circuit in west-central Missouri, to the adjacent 27th Circuit. The plan also calls for Carter County, now part of the 37th Circuit in southeastern Missouri, to move next door to the 36th Circuit.

Supreme Court Chief Justice George W. Draper III discusses the plan to revise judicial circuits during his State of the Judiciary address. Photo by Tim Bommel/Missouri House

Draper said the move would reduce driving time between courthouses within the multi-county circuits, among other benefits.

“Less time behind the wheel means more time on the bench to serve our citizens,” Draper said in his speech, his first to the General Assembly since he became chief justice in July.

The proposed shifts are the result of a bill passed in 2013 that called for the Judicial Conference of Missouri to redraw circuit boundaries every 20 years, starting in 2020. Many of the current circuits have gone unchanged since 1959. The law requires the boundaries to be based on such factors as judges’ workloads and the geography and population of the circuits.

Under the plan, the court-drafted circuit map would go into effect automatically on Jan. 1, unless lawmakers vote to reject the changes. Increasing or reducing the number of judges or circuits remains the legislature’s task — as happened in 2016, when a bill passed to split Taney County from the 38th Circuit, creating the new 46th Circuit.

Draper said a 16-member task force studied the circuit realignment for two years. The resulting report was approved last year by the Judicial Conference and presented to the legislature earlier this month.

Carter County shares the 37th Circuit with Shannon, Oregon and Howell counties — one of five circuits in the state that comprise four counties. Under the plan, it would join Ripley and Butler counties, leaving the 36th and 37th circuits each with three counties. Draper said it also would allow Carter County to share a circuit with the city of Poplar Bluff, where most area residents already conduct business.

In an interview, Judge Michael Pritchett, the presiding judge of the 36th Circuit, said most of his trials occur in more populous Butler County, where Poplar Bluff is located. He believes he would have to travel to Carter County only a few times a month. However, he said there initially was talk of moving a fourth county under his jurisdiction, which he resisted.

The report rejected a proposal to move Wayne County, which is one of five counties in the neighboring 42nd Circuit. Pritchett said a four-county area would have made his circuit too hard to cover.

“It’s just a matter of time, is what it comes down to,” he said. “We can make it work. It’s just the time to be able to do it, and do it the way that I want to.”

Click here to view a full-size image of the map.

Pritchett said he still had questions about when the change would take effect. He is up for election in November, and he said it wasn’t clear if Carter County residents would be able to vote for the 36th Circuit’s presiding judge — or if candidates from that county could run for the office.

The Judicial Conference’s plan calls for the realignment of Benton County to occur on Jan. 1, 2022, and the realignment of Carter County one year after that. The 2013 bill pre-emptively repealed all of the current statutory definitions for the circuits, effective Dec. 31 of this year, however, and it states that the judiciary’s plan would take effect on Jan. 1, 2021 unless the legislature intervenes.

Benton County is in one of the state’s five-county circuits. The plan would have Benton share the 27th Circuit with Bates, Henry and St. Clair counties. That would leave Hickory, Polk, Dallas and Webster counties in the 30th Circuit. Draper said the move would cut down on driving distances within the circuit, which stretches from the Truman Lake area to east of Springfield.

The 27th Circuit’s M. Brandon Baker, whom the governor appointed to the bench last year to fill a vacancy, didn’t return a call seeking comment.

Rep. Warren Love, R-Osceola, who represents the district that includes the southern half of Benton County, said the move seemed to be a good fit. He said he doubted there would be any opposition in the legislature.

“There sure hasn’t been any that I’ve heard about, and I know there won’t be any from me,” he said.

Rep. Jeff Shawan, R-Poplar Bluff, whose district includes Carter County, said he wanted to investigate some of the effects of the move, but he also said he believed opposition was unlikely.

Other than the 42nd Circuit, the only other change the task force said it considered was consolidating the St. Louis County and City circuit courts.

“This motion did not garner much support among the Task Force members, but whether such consolidation would increase judicial efficiencies in those circuits justifies further consideration,” the report notes.

Call for funding

Draper also used the speech to call for additional funding for the court system. He asked lawmakers to approve an additional $2.8 million in funding for court technology and urged pay raises for court employees, saying it was not fair for them “to live below the value of their service.”

He also urged lawmakers to better fund the public defender system, which has complained for years of a lack of funding.

“Speaking from the perspective of both a former prosecutor and a former trial judge, I can tell you the system simply does not work without a sufficiently funded and staffed public defender system,” he said. Draper was an assistant circuit attorney in St. Louis before becoming one of the rare judges to serve at every level of Missouri’s judiciary. He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2011.

Draper also is only the second African-American judge to sit on the Supreme Court. He gave a shout-out to the first, now-U.S. District Judge Ronnie White, who attended the speech. Draper also used the occasion to remind lawmakers of how much Missouri has changed since its admittance to the Union as a slave state.

“History is the tie that binds,” he said.

By Scott Lauck | Missouri Lawyers Weekly

How Armed Citizens Can Prepare to Engage an Active Shooter

Many citizens own and carry guns for self-defense and to protect their loved ones. In 2017, approximately 40 percent of Americans reported that they own or live with someone who owns a firearm. There were 17 million concealed-carry permits issued in 2018.

With the increase in mass shootings across our nation, armed citizens need to consider what action they would take, if any, should they find themselves in the proximity of an active shooting. While every situation will be different (and impossible to pre-determine), those who would consider engaging a shooter must understand the risks and take steps to prepare for such a situation.

Armed Citizens Don’t Have a Duty to Respond

First of all, it’s important for armed citizens to realize they do not have a responsibility to save the day. That duty lies with law enforcement. Officers are trained intensely and frequently in firearm tactics and active shooter response techniques. Officers are also often equipped with large-capacity, semi-automatic handguns, carbine rifles, and ballistic protective clothing that gives them the best chance for survival during an active-shooter event.

You WILL Be Outgunned

Armed citizens must understand that if they take aggressive action against a shooter, they will be out-gunned. Most concealed-carry individuals carry small- or medium-capacity firearms. Think of it this way: Who in their right mind would use their little .380 or snub-nosed .38 to go after one or more shooters who likely has multiple handguns and rifles that hold 30-round magazines?

Since being out-gunned during a shooting incident is likely, a safer alternative would be to employ the run, hide, fight strategy. If confronted by the shooter, using your weapon to fight back may be the right choice in that situation. Even in a scenario where a person is unable to run or hide, armed citizens still do not have to seek out and engage the shooter.

It’s also important to remember that when police arrive, they likely don’t know you from the shooter so follow their instructions precisely as demanded.

For armed citizens who think they would choose to actively confront a shooter, consider the following strategies and training tactics:

Practice Advanced Training Techniques

Not all armed citizens train for proficiency in self-defense methods. Instead, they merely go to the local shooting range and target practice. That’s not defensive training.

Most shooting ranges don’t have targets that move or shoot back; shooters are not allowed to quick-draw; there’s no urgency to fire rounds as quickly and accurately as possible; and there’s no stress as in a real gunfight. These are all critical skills to have when involved in an active shooter situation.

In contrast, police always train defensively and armed citizens could benefit from replicating similar training techniques. Typical exercises for officers include quick-draw responses to multiple targets, some friendly targets mixed with targets showing threats, and choices about when to use deadly force. Officers generally have two or three seconds to assess the target and take appropriate action.

Most exercises require officers to walk and run while firing, clear misfires, and perform combat reloading. During one exercise, when a buzzer sounds, the officer runs through an obstacle course of numerous threats to neutralize a target within a specific time limit. Other scenarios require shooting while moving forward and backward, down on one or both knees, on the ground lying on one’s back, stomach and sideways while shooting from cover. Officers also practice shooting weak-handed and locating appropriate cover and concealment. Police train to engage multiple targets.

They do all this training while prioritizing weapon lethality (shotgun, rifle, semi-automatic and automatic firearms, handgun, knife), threat proximity (close combat or distant), and maintaining weapon retention. All the above is considered “basic” police firearms training.

Police also conduct specific drills for mass shootings. Officers not only train to seek out the bad guys, but they are also shot at by instructors armed with hot wax and paint rounds. Officers train to work in teams as well as solo as they go in and out of buildings. Active shooter training is intense and frequent, which serves to increase accuracy, safety, discipline, and confidence.

Know Your Surroundings

Police train to be aware of what’s behind their target. If there is any chance of injury to an innocent person behind the bad guy, the shot should not be taken. During a shooting incident, people will panic and run in all directions. You don’t want to shoot, injure, or kill anyone running for safety. If that occurs, you will likely face liable charges. You must quickly determine, “If I miss the aggressor, will I risk injuring the good guys?” If the answer is “maybe,” take cover until you have a clear shot.

It’s not only people you would need to be aware of. What if the shooting is occurring at an outdoor event? Are there buildings nearby? How many times have you heard about a bullet entering a building and striking someone inside?

Training Tips for Armed Citizens

To endow themselves with the best chance for survival, citizens ideally should train like the police. Of course, police departments don’t generally train civilians, so armed citizens could seek out an outdoor range ideally staffed with instructors who have experience in combat and survival tactics. Alternatively, there are private companies that offer combat firearms training for civilians.

If those options aren’t available, there are things you can do on your own to better prepare for an active shooter situation. For example, while at the range practice under stress. Start at a distance where you can consistently hit the target in two seconds and gradually increase the distance until you become proficient from that distance. As career officers, we both trained to double-tap, meaning two quick shots at center mass, then a quick assessment to determine the status of the aggressor. Then repeat as needed until the aggressor stops.

Tactics for Engaging an Active Shooter

If you find yourself in an active shooter situation and decide to take action, do it quickly but not haphazardly. Stay out of the line of fire and use cover and concealment to your advantage.

Immediately upon hearing shots fired, get behind cover and assess the situation, scanning for threats. If you do not see the threat, cautiously move toward the sounds of gunshots, while keeping your firearm concealed. It’s recommended that you draw your weapon, as long as you can keep it out of view. You want to be inconspicuous so as not to draw attention to yourself and avoid being mistaken for the active shooter.

If you identify the shooter, take cover. Your goal is to engage from the shortest distance possible, attempting to ensure accuracy based upon your skill level. Remember, the shooter is a killer, and you are shooting to neutralize the threat.

Once the shooter is down, stay behind cover and reload if needed while scanning for further threats. Always assume there could be more than one shooter. Notably, in a terrorist-related incident, there will likely be handlers covertly directing the shooters behind the scenes. There could also be other armed good guys present, too.

If the scene is clear, approach with caution, keeping your weapon on target and disarm the shooter. Once you deem the scene safe, holster your weapon and wait for the police. They will likely handle you as a suspect until they sort things out. That will include taking your firearm as evidence. Therefore, be sure to follow their commands closely without hesitation.

Legal Considerations

The decision to take action during an active shooter goes beyond a person’s skill level and competency with a firearm. There are also legal factors to consider. If weapons are not handled responsibly, the citizen is risking criminal and civil liability. All firearm owners should understand deadly force is authorized (legal) only in cases of self-defense. In other words, one must reasonably be in fear of his or her life, or of another person’s, or of serious injury.

Individuals who engage an active shooter must realize that their actions will be scrutinized by the justice system, the media, and the public so they must know how to navigate those situations as well.

As a supervisor for the Virginia Beach Homicide squad, Bruce Razey received training from a local defense attorney specializing in defending officer-involved shootings. The big takeaway from the training was that when officers are asked what happened, they should reply, “I will not make any statements without consulting my attorney.”

Many people might think that comment makes the officer sound guilty. We don’t disagree. However, comments such as “I thought he was going for a gun,” or “I heard shots, then he came running around the corner, and I couldn’t see his hands” could raise questions concerning the officer’s actions. This sound advice for officers should also be sound advice for the armed citizen. Remember, the law is not just for criminals; every citizen has the same rights under Miranda.

In summary, the above recommendations in no way cover every situation. Each incident will present diverse issues and must be handled accordingly. It is critical that armed citizens focus on advanced training tactics practiced regularly. To use a common adage within the police profession: When faced with an emergency, you will do one of two things, panic or do what you were trained to do.


By Andrew Bell and Bruce Razey | In Public Safety

About the Authors:

Andrew Bell has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience and 25 years in the U.S. military and civilian service. He served as a patrol officer, detective, patrol sergeant, community-policing supervisor, school resource supervisor and detective supervisor. He was called to active duty with U.S. Army Reserve after 9/11 and completed a tour in Afghanistan. Andrew also worked for the U.S. federal government in Army intelligence, Army capabilities unit and emergency operations. He holds a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor of science degree with a concentration in criminal justice. Andrew has been a faculty member of American Military University since 2004.

Bruce Razey began his law enforcement career in 1975. During his 35-year career, he worked for three diverse police departments. Bruce served in patrol operations, special operations and the investigative division. His assignments included field training officer, air unit coordinator/observer, field training supervisor, community policing supervisor, detective supervisor and committee chairman for internal affairs review unit. He served on numerous hiring and promotional boards; authored and co-authored policies and procedures; created lesson plans to instruct new and veteran officers in a variety of topics; and established policy and guidelines for an improved method of conducting police lineups and eye-witness testimony. Bruce holds a bachelor of science degree in criminology from the University of Saint Leo, Florida. He graduated number one from the Regional Police Academy and from the West Point Leadership & Management Training Course.

To contact the authors, email For more articles featuring insight from industry experts, subscribe to In Public Safety’s bi-monthly newsletter.

US AG William P. Barr Announces the Establishment of the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice

Today, Attorney General William P. Barr announced the establishment of the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. On Oct. 28, 2019, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Order No. 13896, authorizing and designating the Attorney General to create such a Commission that would explore modern issues affecting law enforcement that most impact the ability of American policing to reduce crime.

“There is no more noble and important profession than law enforcement.  A free and safe society requires a trusted and capable police force to safeguard our rights to life and liberty,” said Attorney General William P. Barr.  “But as criminal threats and social conditions have changed the responsibilities and roles of police officers, there is a need for a modern study of how law enforcement can best protect and serve American communities.  This is why the President instructed me to establish this critical Commission, whose members truly reflect the best there is in law enforcement.  Together, we will examine, discuss, and debate how justice is administered in the United States and uncover opportunities for progress, improvement, and innovation.”

The Executive Order instructs the Commission to conduct its study by focusing on the law enforcement officers who are tasked with reducing crime on a daily basis.  It also directs the Commission to research “important current issues facing law enforcement and the criminal justice system,” and recommends a variety of subjects for study, such as, but not limited to:

The challenges to law enforcement associated with mental illness, homelessness, substance abuse, and other social factors that influence crime and strain criminal justice resources;
The recruitment, hiring, training, and retention of law enforcement officers, including in rural and tribal communities;
Refusals by Stat​​e and local prosecutors to enforce laws or prosecute categories of crimes;
The need to promote public confidence and respect for the law and law enforcement officers; and
The effects of technological innovations on law enforcement and the criminal justice system, including the challenges and opportunities presented by such innovations.

The Commission will principally conduct its study through a series of hearings, panel presentations, field visits, and other public meetings.  At these events, the Commission will hear from subject matter experts, public officials, private citizens, and other relevant stakeholders and institutions who can provide valuable insight into these issues.

The Commissioners, appointed by the Attorney General and announced today, are urban police chiefs, state prosecutors, county sheriffs, members of rural law enforcement, federal agents, U.S. Attorneys, and a state attorney general.  In addition to their diverse experiences and backgrounds, each member brings to the Commission an expertise in formulating and shaping law enforcement policy and leading police departments and law enforcement organizations.

Commissioners on the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice include:

Chair: Phil Keith, Director, Community Oriented Policing Services
Vice-Chair: Katharine Sullivan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs
David Bowdich, Deputy Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Donald Washington, Director, United States Marshals Services
Regina Lombardo, Acting Director, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives
Erica Macdonald, United States Attorney, District Of Minnesota
D. Christopher Evans, Chief of Operations, Drug Enforcement Administration
James Clemmons, Sheriff, Richmond County, North Carolina
Frederick Frazier, City Council, McKinney, Texas/ Police Officer, Dallas Police Department
Robert Gualtieri, Sheriff, Pinellas County, Florida
Gina Hawkins, Chief of Police, Fayetteville, North Carolina
Ashley Moody, Florida Attorney General
Nancy Parr, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Chesapeake, Virginia
Craig Price, South Dakota Secretary of Public Safety
Gordon Ramsay, Chief of Police, Wichita, Kansas
David B. Rausch, Director, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
John Samaniego, Sheriff, Shelby County, Alabama
James Smallwood, Police Officer, Nashville Metropolitan Police Department

The Commission will meet monthly for the next year and then report its findings to the Attorney General, who will submit a final report to the President.

Chief justice: Missouri public defenders need more funding

For several years officials with the Missouri State Public Defender System have said they need more funds to hire more lawyers. The head of the Missouri Supreme Court announced his support for that cause Wednesday.

During the annual State of the Judiciary address, given to a joint session of the Missouri Legislature, Chief Justice George Draper III talked about how many of the lawyers he faced when he served as a prosecutor were public defenders.

“Speaking from the perspective of both a former prosecutor and a former trial judge, I can tell you the system simply does not work without a sufficiently funded and staffed public defender system,” Draper said.

Missouri’s public defender system began in 1972 as the state’s response to a 1965 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found the federal Constitution’s 6th Amendment right to counsel includes poor people who can’t afford their own attorney.

In Missouri, the public defe​​nder’s office is appointed to a criminal case only when there’s a possibility of a jail or prison sentence and the defendant can’t pay to hire a lawyer. Historically, the system’s attorneys have had a large caseload and constant turnover.

Document: Missouri State of the Judiciary 2020 VIEW DOCUMENT

“To be sure, all attorneys in public service work long, hard hours, and many are underpaid and under-recognized,” Draper said. “However, if criminal cases cannot be moved efficiently through the system because of overloaded attorneys, we risk leaving those who are guilty on the street, those who are not guilty unable to return to being productive members of society, and victims and their families powerless to find closure and move forward with their lives.”

During a December meeting with Cole County judges, Justin Carver, who heads the local public defender office serving Cole, Miller and Moniteau counties, told judges there was a wait list of nearly 340 cases. Of that number, nearly 200 were from Cole County.

Carver noted the oldest case dated back to June. He said the majority on the wait list are cases where the defendant is not being held in custody. They look for the oldest cases of those in custody as the ones to deal with first on the wait list.

Carver is authorized to have seven assistant public defenders.

One way to help relieve the caseloads for public defenders and the courts has been the use of alternative courts. In Wednesday’s address, Draper noted Missouri now has more than 100 counties served by more than 120 treatment courts — adult, juvenile, family and DWI courts.

“Because of House Bill 547, which you also passed last year, we will have treatment courts established in every circuit in the state by August 2021,” Draper told legislators Wednesday.

Cole County has Drug Court, DWI court and Veterans Court. Prosecutor Locke Thompson said they are trying to develop another alternative court in the future.

Draper also asked lawmakers to continue efforts to increase the pay of the 3,600 people who work in the state court system.

“We simply cannot ask these people — who reside in your communities and work in our court system — to live below the value of their service,” Draper said. “On their behalf, we thank you for your appropriations over the past few years of salary increases to bring our lowest-paid staff to at least the base of where our classification and compensation study shows they should be. However, if we want to retain the good employees we have and be able to recruit high-quality workers as positions become open, we need to move our staff toward market salary goals.”


By Jeff Haldiman | News Tribune

Missouri Lawmakers Push Long Prison Sentences for Fentanyl

Missouri lawmakers have moved to enact strict penalties for people caught with the highly lethal opioid fentanyl.

The House gave the bill initial approval in a voice vote.

If passed, the bill would add fentanyl and two substances sometimes used to commit rape to Missouri’s drug laws.

Fentanyl is already federally listed as a controlled substance. Republican bill sponsor Rep. Nick Schroer said banning its misuse under state law will give local prosecutors more tools to convict people who sell the deadly opioid.

Under the bill, selling or trying to sell more than 10 milligrams of fentanyl would be punishable by five to 15 years in prison. Those convicted of trying to sell 20 milligrams or more of the drug would face 10 to 30 years in prison.

Possessing or trying to buy more than 10 milligrams of fentanyl would mean up to seven years in prison or five to 15 years behind bars for 20 milligrams or more.

Bipartisan critics questioned whether long prison sentences would be effective in deterring drug sales and fighting the opioid epidemic.

St. Louis Democratic Rep. Peter Merideth raised concerns that the law could mean lifelong prison sentences for people struggling with addiction.


By Associated Press | Missouri Lawyers Weekly