Longtime Sedalia Municipal Court Judge Deborah Mitchell will officially seek to move to the Associate Circuit Court of Pettis County as Division 6 Judge, upon filing for the general election as an independent candidate Monday afternoon at the courthouse.
“I have been considering doing this, but I did not want to run on a party ticket,” Mitchell said. “I believe now, I have always believed, that judicial elections should be non-partisan. I believe there is no room in the courtroom for politics.”
Mitchell previously ran for the position in 2006 on the Democrat ticket, but said she has always believed judge seats should be non-partisan.
“Last time I ran for associate circuit judge, I did run on a party ticket, but I made it clear during my campaign that all judicial elections should remain non-partisan. I think I was a little bit hesitant, even a little scared to do something that was so bold and new,” Mitchell said.
Whatever fears she had in 2006 are gone now, thanks to a nearly yearlong stay in Afghanistan through the Rule of Law Program.
“Since that time I have been in Afghanistan for six months. Part of that was sitting for two hours in a bunker while Taliban fighters shot tracers over my head. So, I’m not really afraid of doing something bold and new anymore,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell faces some stiff competition in the general election. The August primary will determine if she will face Stanley Cox, longtime lawyer and current state representative, or Jeff Mittelhauser, the longtime Pettis County Prosecutor, on the GOP ticket. She will face longtime attorney Carmen Smith, who is running unopposed on the Democratic ticket.
Still, Mitchell is the only candidate who has experience on the bench. While she serves the municipal court, she sees the problems the community faces and recognizes those same problems are prevalent on the state level. She said drugs are a problem in the community, but so is assault and domestic violence.
She favors alternative sentencing when appropriate, but recognizes that sometimes it is not.
“It’s very common for us to use community service if I believe it’s warranted. I have done anger management. I’ve also done alcohol treatment orders, things that I believe will help people solve their problems. As long as they are warranted, sometimes it just doesn’t work and we have to go forward,” Mitchell said.
The Associate Circuit Court Division 6 Judge handles criminal matters and civil litigation, but mostly family law. Many scholars in Jurisprudence have said those cases and the residual effects are the most difficult of all, especially those cases where a child is removed from the home. Mitchell will undoubtedly preside over this type of case if elected. What are her thoughts on termination of parental rights?
“A far as terminating parental rights, that’s the harshest punishment that can be issued to a parent or a child,” she said. “The law of Missouri’s says a child is to be, as much as possible, with their parents. While I’ve been a municipal judge for 18 years, I’ve been practicing law for 24, so I’ve done a lot of family law. I have represented both sides in a divorce and I have also represented children as guardian ad litem.
“The most important thing is to make sure the information gets to the court. As a judge, I’m always looking for the information to get to me. Anytime I make a decision in any case I want to make sure I have all the information I can before I make a determination.”
Because the state of Missouri does not recognize independents as an established party, Mitchell did not have to file by the March 25 deadline. Statutes require candidates to receive signatures equal to 2 percent of last year’s voter turnout. In the last election 10,675 people voted, which means Mitchell had to collect at least 214 signatures before Monday.