TANEY COUNTY, Mo. – The sponsor of a bill in the Missouri Senate says the proposal would help speed up some court proceedings in the Ozarks.
Senator Jay Wasson (R-Nixa) says his bill would create a brand new judicial circuit by splitting up the 38th — the current circuit that includes Christian and Taney Counties.
“They’re the only two counties, first class counties, in the state that are still not their own circuits,” he says.
Wasson says a recent Supreme Court study showed the 38th is the busiest judicial circuit in the state.
“We’ve been in a situation where the caseload, between the two counties, is more than what one circuit judge needs to be trying to do,” says Taney County Prosecuting Attorney, Jeff Merrell.
Merrell says the proposal to turn Taney County into the state’s newest circuit (46th) would allow more to be accomplished.
“By design it would allow us to have more court appearances, more hearings and more jury trial days,” he says.
“In turn, it should pick up some momentum and speed up the process,” Merrell says, “at least for the criminals cases– what I’m more familiar with– probably also for the civil dockets.”
A similar proposal passed the Senate and House during the last legislative session but was vetoed by Governor Nixon.
“It was in a package where a lot of amendments were put in there,” says Wasson. “I don’t think the Governor has a problem with this bill.”
Wasson says amendments are also a concern this go-around because it could slow down the bill being signed into law.
He says the “deadline” for the bill is February 23rd, which would be the last day candidates could sign up for the newly created circuit judge’s seat.
“[It’s] very rare that you would get a bill on the Governors desk in February, in session,” Wasson says.
“We’re taking a shot at this,” he says, “I hope it will work. If it does it’s going to take a lot of people.”
Wasson says if the deadline is not met, the measure could be delayed until 2018.