39th Judicial Circuit Court appointees going to work

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Introducing the honorable David Cole, Mathew Kasper

Missouri’s 39th Judicial Circuit, covering Barry, Lawrence and Stone counties, has seen a changing of the guard this year with longtime Presiding Judge Jack Goodman being appointed to the southern district court of appeals and Judge Robert E. George retiring.

Gov. Mike Parson appointed Judge Jack Goodman to the Missouri Court of Appeals, southern district to succeed Judge Daniel E. Scott, who retired Dec. 31.

Goodman was sworn into office Jan. 19, vacating his position as 39th Judicial Circuit Presiding judge.

Goodman, a Monett resident, will be commuting to the appellate court offices in Springfield.

Goodman has been licensed to practice law since 1998, and has served as a prosecuting attorney, a state representative and a state senator before being elected as presiding judge in 2013.

“I have been very blessed to have these opportunities,” Goodman said, adding that his experience will be his strength as an appeals court judge.

Goodman’s day-to-day function as an appeals judge will be to review cases and ensure there were no errors made in procedure or rulings.

“I’ve worked in every area of the law since the 1990s,” he said. “I’ve worked with the law from all directions, from an attorney, to a lawmaker writing laws, to a judge, interpreting the law.”

Goodman said he is looking forward to digging in as an appeals judge, and expects the new position will free up some more time for community involvement.

“I am tremendously grateful for the time I have had to serve as the circuit court presiding judge,” he said. “It has been humbling, rewarding and enlightening, but I am looking forward to and I’m excited to have more time to get more involved with the community.”

Taking Goodman’s seat as Circuit Court Presiding Judge is longtime local attorney David A. Cole, who was appointed by Parson last month and sworn in on Feb. 11.

Goodman said he has worked with Cole extensively over the years and has stayed in communication with him throughout the transition process.

“We have been communicating actively and I have assured him that anything that we can appropriately do to make this transition smooth, I will do that,” Goodman said.

Cole joined the Cassville law firm of Ellis, Cupps and Cole in 1993. During his time as an attorney, Cole focused his career on a number of practices, including personal injury, probate, litigation, estates and trusts, real estate and local government law.

He said his experience as an attorney working in the local courts will be an asset as he steps up to the judge’s bench.

“Obviously we are in a unique situation with COVID and the pandemic,” Cole said. “It has affected our ability to have regularly scheduled hearings, so that’s going to be an issue. But, we are all dealing with it and it has impacted all of us.”

Cole received a bachelor of science in business administration from Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, and graduated from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1992.

In addition to his career in law, Cole has been active in the community and is currently a board member of the South Barry County Hospital District Board of Directors and the Mercy Health System Western Region Board of Directors. He has previously served as Chairman of the South Barry County Hospital District Board of Directors, and the Mercy Health System Western Region Board of Directors. Cole has served on the Coordinating Board of Higher Education for the State of Missouri, the Crowder College Foundation Board of Directors, the Cassville Board of Education and is a past president of the Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Cole said he resigned his position on the healthcare boards to avoid any conflicts of interest.

“I’ll have to resign from all of those boards,” Cole said. “You do those things because it’s important to the community, but I think this job is also important to the community. It’s a different kind of community service.”

Mathew Kasper, who has served as assistant prosecuting attorney for Lawrence County since 2016, was sworn in as associate circuit court judge Feb. 5 to replace longtime judge Robert E. George, who has turned 70 years old and aged-out of his long-held position as judge per state law.

“Lawrence County owes a big debt to Robert George,” Kasper said. “He has been a real tremendous judge, and it’s quite a legacy he’s left in Lawrence County. I’ve worked with him for the past five years, and he’s been like a mentor to me.”

George officially retired in December, but has been working with Kasper to ensure a smooth transition.

“We still talk and converse about the transition and the cases on his docket, so he has given me an idea of what to expect,” Kasper said.

Kasper earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Arkansas Tech University, a master’s degree in divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a law degree from the University of Arkansas.

He has lived in Mt. Vernon and worked as assistant prosecuting attorney for Lawrence County for nearly five years, which is why he felt he was well suited to apply for George’s vacant position.

Kasper applied for the judge’s bench through Governor Mike Parson’s office. From there, his application was reviewed by the Republican Central Committee, which made a recommendation to the governor’s office.

The circuit court judge is elected to a four-year term. George has two remaining years on that term, which expires in 2022. Kasper said he is planning to run for election once the term of his appointment is expired.

“This is a post I am very grateful for and I would very much like to continue serving,” he said.

With nearly five years of experience as Lawrence County’s assistant prosecuting attorney, Kasper said he is well suited to take over as a circuit court judge with a working knowledge of the local caseload and challenges the court systems are facing during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

“Lawrence County has a large case load — a lot of jury trials,” Kasper said. “In 2019, I did 12 jury trials myself in one year. That’s a lot. And last year, I was the only one who did a jury trial because of COVID.”

With various lockdowns and restrictions placed on the courts over the course of the past year, Kasper said one of his biggest challenges coming in as a new judge will be finding ways to operate in the new climate.

“Over the last year, courts have been, at some level, closed. Cases back up, and it gets hard to move on those,” he said.

State and federal laws require many court actions to include in-person appearances, including from witnesses, defendants and of jurors. When the state or county is locked down due to the pandemic, it is nearly impossible to accommodate those requirements.

“We are trying to do more video calling, but there is only so much you can do because of the state statutes. It’s really backed things up,” Kasper said. “We’ve done quite a bit of growing as far as what we can do virtually, and things are opening back up, but we are still somewhat restricted.”

As court business returns to some semblance of normal, Kasper said he will be working to ensure that proper social distancing is possible for in-court appearances to keep everyone safe.

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