Presiding with experience

Columbia gets a new municipal judge
Sunday, November 16, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:50 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

For years Bob Aulgur spent his days in the courtroom defending and prosecuting local residents, but now he has taken a seat on the other side of the bench.

Aulgur is the new presiding municipal judge for Columbia and brings with him years of experience as a local defense attorney and assistant county prosecutor.

“My experience gives me credibility with defense attorneys and prosecutors because I understand the problems inherent in practicing law,” Aulgur said. “It has taught me patience and a better understanding of how the legal process works and how that process affects individual people.”

On his first day in court as judge, hearing more than 50 traffic violations, he seemed at ease, rarely looking at the cheat sheet in front of him as he explained courtroom procedures.

Aulgur said he enjoys making the law easy for others to understand because he values the protection of people’s individual rights.

“He was fair and very appropriate. You couldn’t tell it was his first day,” Tommy Johnson said after the judge heard his case and fined him for a minor traffic violation.

Aulgur remains indifferent but polite in the courtroom. While he occasionally shows a lighter side, he’s not afraid to bring the hammer down, as three East Campus women learned when they were fined $112 apiece for loud music or other noise violations.

As each defendant leaves Aulgur’s courtroom, the judge offers words of wisdom about how to avoid seeing him again.

“I think civility is important, and I try to make sure that the people who come to court have been treated in a courteous manner because how we treat people will shape their opinions on the entire municipal court system,” Aulgur said.

Before becoming judge, Aulgur was assistant prosecutor in Cole County for five years. In 1983 he was named Missouri Prosecutor of the Year by the Missouri Prosecuting Attorneys Association and in 1985 he became general counsel for the Missouri Department of Revenue.

He moved to Columbia in 1989 and worked as first assistant prosecutor under then Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Joe Moseley for three years. He ran for county prosecutor in 1994 but lost in the Democratic primary.

“I think that’s a great position for him and a great decision by the city because of his wealth of experience and because of his thoroughness with dealing with legal matters,” Moseley said.

Aulgur then worked as partner for the firm Schurtleff, Froeschner, Bunn and Aulgur.

Loramel Schurtleff, who went to law school with Aulgur at MU, describes him as honest, hard working and funny, despite his straight-laced appearance. His experience as both a prosecutor and defender will make him a more well-rounded and compassionate judge, she said.

In 1996, Aulgur applied for municipal judge but wasn’t chosen. He opened his own law practice in 2000 but closed it when he became judge last month. He’ll earn $61,000 a year.

In the past 10 years, the Municipal Court caseload has increased because of new ordinances as well as the transfer of alcohol offenses and minor marijuana possession cases from state courts to the cities’ courts. The judge has an average of 60 to 75 cases on the docket each day. Most are alcohol offenses or traffic violations.

Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Crane, who worked with Aulgur as an assistant under Moseley, said Aulgur’s courtroom understanding will be “very valuable.”

“He’s going to be reasonable and recognize cases that need more stringent actions taken,” Crane said. “He’ll take cases where some people just made a mistake and don’t need to be hammered but just reminded that law enforcement is there.”

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