COLUMBIA — A fourth attorney has filed to run for Division 5 associate circuit judge. The division's judge presides over general civil and criminal cases in Boone County.
Michael Whitworth declared his candidacy Wednesday. The other candidates — Finley Gibbs, Kimberly Shaw and Robert Fleming — filed on Feb. 25.
Finley Gibbs, partner at the law firm of Rotts & Gibbs.
Robert Fleming, senior assistant Missouri state public defender.
Kimberly Shaw, Boone County public defender.
Michael Whitworth, attorney at the law firm of Ford, Parshall & Baker.
The candidates are running to replace Associate Circuit Judge Larry Bryson, who is retiring after 28 years on the bench. Bryson is unable to fulfill another term, since Missouri law mandates all non-municipal judges retire at 70.
Bryson is a "tremendous judge," Whitworth said, but it's time for someone new to take over. "I believe it should be me."
Whitworth earned his law degree from St. Louis University School of Law in 1985, and he has practiced law in Missouri ever since. The National Trial Lawyers organization named him one of this year's top 100 trial lawyers.
Whitworth, has served as both a prosecutor and defender. That experience "on both sides of the aisle" has given him the perspective to enforce the law as it is written, he said.
Shaw, who works as a Boone County public defender, ran against Bryson for associate circuit judge in 2010 and lost narrowly.
That loss was "painfully close," she said, but it has made her much more comfortable campaigning.
Shaw's job as a public defender keeps her busy, she said, and that's prepared her to handle the heavy caseload of a circuit judge. Moreover, the types of cases she argued as a public defender are the same as she would encounter as a circuit judge, she said.
Fleming, who works as a senior assistant Missouri state public defender, said his 32 years of working in different areas of law has given him the experience to be a good judge.
But his decision to run was all about timing.
"It wouldn't have crossed my mind if Bryson hadn't announced his retirement," he said, adding that it isn't a good idea to run against a sitting judge.
It's a good practice to have local judges be elected by the public, Fleming said, because circuit judges have a lot of contact with members of the community. They hear misdemeanor cases such as reckless driving, public intoxication and petty theft.
"It takes a special type of person," Fleming said.
He said he anticipates a friendly campaign, and he is looking forward to the experience of running for the position.
Gibbs, the first candidate to announce he would run, is a partner at Rotts & Gibbs LLC. He said transitioning into the busy Boone County system is a challenge he is prepared to meet, according to previous Missourian reporting.
The deadline to file as a candidate in the election is Tuesday.