COLUMBIA — After more than 41 years as a lawyer, Norman Lampton, 68, is ready to take a turn in his life.
“I have an opportunity to give back when I am moving from one part of my practice life to another part,” Lampton said.
Lampton is one of two Republican candidates for Boone County public administrator on Tuesday's primary ballot. The public administrator manages the estates of people who have died, of minors and of those with mental illnesses or other disabilities when no one else is available to do so.
Lampton has held several positions with and remains active in the Missouri Bar, which encourages lawyers to perform community service whenever possible. Lampton believes running for public administrator is one way to do that.
“It was something that was pretty much aligned with the work I have done for 41 years as a lawyer,” Lampton said. “I am up to speed on the law already.”
Lampton’s law practice has focused on creditor in bankruptcy law for the past 20 years. He thinks that legal background has prepared him for the job of public administrator.
“The public administrator has one job – to be the public administrator,” Lampton said. “There is not a lot of wiggle room, if any. You must follow the law. You don’t get to set policy.... All you get to do is follow the law.”
Lampton didn't go into law immediately. One month and nine days after turning 19, he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve through a program at Benedictine College. He trained throughout college and served a 26-month tour in Vietnam after graduating with a degree in political science and economics from Benedictine.
“I wanted to serve,” he said. “I liked the Navy, and I would like my grandchildren to serve in the Navy, too."
After Vietnam, Lampton went on to earn a law degree at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, graduating in 1971.
Lampton represents Vietnam veterans for free when they face legal troubles, but he wants to give more to the community through the public administrator office.
“I guess that it’s the long-standing duty engrained in me to give back,” Lampton said.
Lampton recently began coaching the Father Tolton Catholic High School mock trial, which was in its first year. At the state competition, the all-freshman team competed against 15 other teams, consisting of mostly seniors, and took 11th place.
“I plan on doing that as long as they let me,” Lampton said. “I’ve got some great kids out there.”
Lampton thinks he is the most qualified candidate to be public administrator because he is able to do the work of two people at once. He said he won't have to hire a lawyer to go into the probate court for clients’ cases.
“If I am the public administrator and I am an attorney, and I do my ‘own work,’ then there are no lawyer fees paid, and there is more money ... to provide for the care of the people,” Lampton said.
Lampton said there is a provision in the law that prevents attorneys who are public administrators from collecting lawyer fees. “There would be more money in the estates,” Lampton said.
When Lampton first filed to run for the office, he said, he had no idea that his friend John Sullivan also was seeking the Republican nomination. The two attend Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church together and are active in the Knights of Columbus.
“It’s kind of funny to us that both of us filed and neither one of us knew that the other was filing,” Lampton said. “We make jokes about it.”
Although Lampton and Sullivan have similarities, Lampton thinks there is one thing that makes him stand out.
“The only difference between me and John Sullivan is that I have a law license,” Lampton said. “And that law license makes that rule that you can’t take money both as a public administrator and as an attorney applicable.”
Less than two years ago, Lampton was administrating 900 legal cases, more than double the current caseload of the public administrator. With the help of a modernized office system, Lampton thinks he can easily handle the large number of clients under the care of the public administrator.
“The computer with software takes care of the paperwork, and the human takes care of the human,” Lampton said.
Lampton thinks the highlight of the public administrator position would be helping his clients. He expects the greatest challenge would be assuming the reins from the incumbent.
“The biggest challenge is that, just like any change of administration of any kind, there is a learning curve,” Lampton said. “All those estates are going to be transferred, are going have to be audited and are going to have to be gone through.”
As a lawyer, Lampton said he can't comment on the work of incumbent Cathy Richards because any comment could be a reflection on the court.
“The question is for the people to decide what is best for the estates that the public administrator has to administer,” Lampton said.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.