The presiding judge for the 39th Judicial Circuit has changed, following the retirement of Judge Robert Wiley last week.
Under Missouri law, judges are required to retire before reaching age 70 or face forfeiting their pension. Wiley, who began serving in the circuit's top job in January 2007, retired on June 28, one day before his 70th birthday.
Wiley's departure left a vacancy in a busy circuit that has been classified as under-served, considering the level of court cases processed. To fill the position temporarily, the Missouri Supreme Court assigned the circuit judge duties to Judge Alan Blankenship, who has served as associate circuit judge in Stone County for the past 10 years.
"Any of the associate judges in the circuit could have done the job," Blankenship told The Times.
Also serving in the circuit are Lawrence County judges Scott Sifferman, who has been on the bench in Lawrence County since 1989, and Samuel Jones; Barry County judges Victor Head and Robert Foulke; and Mark Stephens with Blankenship in Stone County.
"We have to have a circuit judge to handle certain administrative duties," said Blankenship. "We anticipate that in the next couple weeks there will be a determination of who will be able to serve for the balance of the year."
Blankenship said he let the Supreme Court know that he preferred to keep his job as associate circuit judge. He plans to undertake his duties as presiding judge from his office in Galena, but will travel to Mt. Vernon and Cassville as needed.
Blankenship said he has not given any thought to an extended stint as the circuit judge. He expects Governor Jay Nixon to make an appointment shortly.
"[Term-limited state senator] Jack Goodman is running unopposed for the circuit judge position," Blankenship said. "We're all looking forward to him being the judge."