People who file a civil case in Greene County can expect to wait until well into 2008 for the courts to hear their case.
Some say the wait may be because of the public dispute between Greene County Prosecutor Darrell Moore and Circuit Court Judge Calvin Holden.
But judges in the 31st circuit court say wait time for a trial is actually down from years before. Not long ago, it took an average of 15 months to get a case to civil trial. Now, despite some cases being reassigned to other judges, the wait is less.
Greene County Circuit Judge J. Miles Sweeney says that's largely because of tort reform legislation that took effect in Missouri.
Originally, Moore said he would disqualify Judge Holden from all criminal cases, but late last year he changed that to only select cases.
Moore's policy stemmed from a disagreement between the two officers of the court over a bond Holden set in a criminal case involving an alleged gang member indicted by the county grand jury.
Currently, Holden splits the Greene County criminal docket with Circuit Judge Tom Mountjoy. If both judges are disqualified, a civil judge is assigned and the ripple effect impacts civil case schedules.
"We're not in a very good position to do that because at any one time I have probably between 160 and 180 specially set civil jury trials, so, but that may be an anomaly, and I hope it is," Sweeney notes.
Missouri is one of only a couple of states that allows an automatic disqualification. Sweeney (right) believes that law needs to be changed.
"I think that's a rule that needs to be changed, but the Bar Association and the Supreme Court have not come around to that at this point," Sweeney said. "But that does play heck with our ability to schedule cases when all of a sudden either side can just disqualify a judge."
Sweeney doesn't necessarily think a third criminal case judge in the mix would solve the problem. Some time ago, Boone County, Missouri had a three judge system and Sweeney said that led to what he calls "judge shopping" by attorneys.
Another option, Sweeney says, is for all circuit judge to hearing some criminal and some civil cases. The county also plans to ask the legislature for another judge for the 31st circuit. That request has been denied the past several years.