St. Louis Circuit Judge Craig Higgins sworn-in

Judge Craig K. Higgins, right, is sworn-in by U.S. Magistrate Judge David Noce. Higgins’ son CJ Higgins (center), holds a bible for his father during the ceremony Oct. 27, 2022, at Windows on Washington in downtown St. Louis.

St. Louis, please welcome your newest circuit judge, Craig K. Higgins!

Higgins was sworn in at a Thursday afternoon ceremony at Windows on Washington in downtown St. Louis. More than 100 colleagues, family and friends attended as Higgins took the oath of office, administered by U.S. Magistrate Judge David Noce.

Instead of a traditional acceptance speech, Higgins took the opportunity to acknowledge his son and that of his colleague, Judge Nicole Colbert-Botchway. Their sons, both of whom attended Thursday’s ceremony, are students at the Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience that shares a campus with Central Visual and Performing Arts High School where a gunman Monday fatally shot two people and wounded several others.

“These two young men had to endure that day,” Higgins said. “And so, that, to me, is a profile in courage for these young men to have to endure that day, and I want to make certain that their bravery should be acknowledged.”

He told the crowd he was on his bench Monday morning when he began receiving texts about an intruder on the shared campus. He said he did his best to remain calm in the courtroom. Colbert-Botchway offered to pick up his son for him but Higgins soon learned his wife was already on her way to get him.

“Growing up in the 70s, back then, your neighbors looked after your kids,” he said. “And so, for what Judge Botchway was doing took me back to that time where neighbors were watching out for kids.”

He said the sense of community is something he and Colbert-Botchway are working to instill in their children.

“These are things, why, and all of other judges in this room, why we are doing this job,” he said. “We love our community. We believe that we need to maintain our community to be safe, but we also believe in justice and the rule of law. And this is why we do this job.”

Higgins grew up in north St Louis, graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia and Drake University’s law school. He later worked for the City Counselor’s Office for more than two decades. Gov. Mike Parson appointed Higgins in July to fill a vacancy left by Circuit Judge James Sullivan, who retired. Higgins had served as an associate circuit judge in St. Louis since 2019.

22nd Judicial Circuit Court Implements Mask Mandate for Jury Assembly Room

By administrative order of Presiding Judge Michael F. Stelzer, the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court this week announced it is implementing a temporary mask mandate for its jury assembly room on the first floor of the Civil Courts Building in downtown St. Louis.

The mandate will take effect on Monday, July 25, 2022 and will continue through at least Friday, September 2, 2022. It applies to all Court employees, members of the public summoned for jury duty, and any other person inside any portion of the jury assembly room at any time.

The jury assembly room is an indoor space and the Court’s most high-traffic area where groups of dozens of people routinely gather at a single time over the course of carrying out their jury service almost every week of the year. As such, and because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to encourage mask wearing in crowded indoor spaces, the Court believes this precautionary measure is an important step toward helping reduce potential spread of COVID-19 and to protect the health and safety of its staff, their families, the community at large, and all individuals with whom it regularly interacts.

The City of St. Louis and surrounding communities have continued to experience steady increases in the number of new COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the City of St. Louis Department of Health list the current community level of COVID-19 as HIGH and the current level of transmission as HIGH.

22nd Judicial Circuit Court Treatment Court Commencement Honors New Graduates, Judge Woodiest

It was a bittersweet evening this past Monday as the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court’s Treatment Court held its 139th annual commencement ceremony.

Three new graduates received their diplomas for successfully completing the program and were congratulated with rounds of applause for their tremendous hard work, progress, and success.

But there were also some more poignant and reflective moments — and a few tears shed — when it came time to recognize the Hon. Rochelle Woodiest for many accomplisments.

The Hon. Rochelle Woodiest honored for her service as Commissioner of the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court’s Treatment Court program

Woodiest, who was recently appointed by Governor Mike Person to serve as the Court’s newest Associate Circuit Judge, will be stepping away from her current position as Treatment Court Commissioner, making this her last commencement ceremony. Though, she has vowed to continue attending them in full support of future graduates and the mission of the award-winning program.

Attendees at the commencement ceremony give the Hon. Rochelle Woodiest a standing ovation and round of applause

Woodiest has helped lead the Treatment Court program since her appointment as commissioner in 2013, and as her fellow commissioner, the Hon. Matt Melton, said, “…the program would probably not exist without her. Many people owe their freedom, happiness, success, and peace to her.”

The Hon. Matt Melton and the Hon. Rochelle Woodiest preside over the 139th annual commencement ceremony of the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court’s Treatment Court

The 22nd Judicial Circuit Court congratulates Judge Woodiest and thanks her for her years of service and continued commitment to the judiciary.

22nd Judicial Circuit Court Shares Procedural, Logistical Information for State of Missouri v. Stephan Cannon

Recognizing the high-profile nature of the case, the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court would like to share procedural and logistical information for members of the general public or news media who might be interested in observing or covering State of Missouri v. Stephan Cannon.

BACKGROUND: Defendant Cannon, 26, is charged with one count of first-degree murder, three counts of armed criminal action, one count of first-degree burglary, stealing – $750 or more, and unlawful possession of a firearm. He remains detained on no bond. Charges stem from the June 2, 2020 shooting death of David Dorn in the 4100 block of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in the City of St. Louis.

PROCEDURIAL: Voir dire (jury selection) is scheduled to begin at approximately 9 am on Friday, July 15, 2022 in Division 13 with the Hon. Theresa Counts Burke presiding. Division 13 is located on the seventh floor of the Civil Courts Building at 10 N. Tucker Blvd. in downtown St. Louis. Seventy-two people have been summoned by the Court to appear for jury selection in this matter. The Court anticipates a jury of 12 with three alternates will be seated in one day. Opening statements and the presentation of witnesses and evidence are scheduled to begin at approximately 9 am on Monday, July 18. The Court does not expect proceedings to last more than one week.

SECURITY: All members of the public and news media will be required to go through a security checkpoint every time they wish to enter the Civil Courts Building. This is for their safety and the safety of everyone else in and around the premises. No prohibited items, such as weapons, will be allowed inside and are subject to confiscation by the Sheriff’s Office.

COVID-19: Based on current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the City of St. Louis Department of Health, the Court does not currently have a mandate requiring face masks. Therefore, members of the public and news media are not currently required to wear one at this time. However, the Court wishes to make clear that absolutely anyone who chooses to wear a face mask or covering should feel welcome to do so and comfortable to take any other additional precautions they feel are necessary to protect themselves.

COURTROOM ACCESS: On Friday, July 15, there will be NO access to Division 13 by members of the public or news media. All available courtroom seating will be needed to accommodate the larger than normal pool of potential jurors. There will, though, be an overflow viewing room for the duration of the trial located on the 4th floor of the Civil Courts Building in a conference room across from the Ceremonial Courtroom. Beginning Monday, July 18, two rows in Division 13 will be reserved strictly for members of the news media with all other seating being open to the public on a first come, first served basis. There will be no live stream.

CAMERAS & ELECTRONIC DEVICES: There will be no still photography, videography, and/or audio recording permitted inside Division 13 for any reason at any point during voir dire or the trial, except as follows: Beginning Monday, July 18, and continuing every day of trial thereafter, one pool video camera and one pool still camera will be allowed inside Division 13 at 8:45 am to photograph and record video of the courtroom and its occupants (with the exception of the jury) until 9:00 am. All cameras will then be removed from the courtroom for the day. The video and still images obtained during this 15 minute window will be made available to all news media outlets requesting them and are not for the exclusive use of the photographer or videographer. Working in collaboration with the Court’s Chief Communications Officer, it will be the responsibility of the Court-appointed media coordinator to assign and arrange a pool videographer and photographer for each day of trial and to ensure all photos and videos are distributed to all news media efficiently, fairly, and with immediacy. Additionally, it will be the expectation of the Court that every other aspect of Missouri Supreme Court Operating Rule 16 will be complied with in full by all news media. Violations of Rule 16 or Judge Burke’s order granting limited media access will be handled accordingly. Cell phones and laptops will be permitted for use inside Division 13 during trial so long as they’re not distracting to the Court or used to record or photograph any of the proceedings at any time. Interviews or any other form of news gathering are not permitted in Division 13 or any other location inside the Civil Courts Building and must be conducted outside.4

DOCUMENTS: There is a public access computer on the first floor of the Civil Courts Building near the main entrance off Tucker Blvd. and Market St. There are also public access computers on the third floor for viewing publicly available documents related to this case. On Missouri Case.Net, it’s Cause No. 2022-CR01577.

WIFI/INTERNET ACCESS: There is free public WIFI in and around Division 13 under the name “Judicial_Circuit_CCH”. No password is required.

OTHER: If you have any questions or require additional information or accommodations, please contact Chief Communications Officer Jacob Long at Jacob.Long@courts.mo.gov or (314) 622-5685.

Governor Mike Parson Appoints the Hon. Rochelle Woodiest as Associate Circuit Judge for 22nd Judicial Circuit Court

The 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of the State of Missouri, which proudly serves the City of St. Louis, is today pleased to share that Governor Mike Parson has announced the appointment of the Hon. Rochelle Woodiest as its newest Associate Circuit Judge.

The Hon. Rochelle Woodiest

The appointment fills the vacancy created by the recent appointment of the Hon. Thomas A. McCarthy to Circuit Judge.

Commissioner Woodiest currently serves as one of two commissioners who oversee the 22nd Judicial Circuit’s award-winning Treatment Court program, having been appointed in 2013 and recommissioned in 2017 and 2021. In this role, she presides in both the adult drug court and family and juvenile courts.

Commissioner Woodiest earned a B.A. from Iowa State University and a J.D. from St. Louis University.

A passionate and devoted public servant, Woodiest also previously spent more than 10 years as a trial attorney for the City of St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office, including more than four years as the Director of Drug Court Prosecution in the adult drug court program.

Governor Parson Appoints the Hon. Craig K. Higgins as Circuit Judge for 22nd Judicial Circuit Court

The 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of the State of Missouri, which proudly serves the City of St. Louis, is today pleased to share that Governor Mike Parson has announced the appointment of the Hon. Craig K. Higgins, as its newest Circuit Judge.

The Hon. Craig K. Higgins

The appointment fills the vacancy created by the upcoming retirement of the Hon. James Sullivan.

Judge Higgins, a lifelong resident of the City of St. Louis who grew up in the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood, currently serves as an Associate Circuit Judge for the 22nd Judicial Circuit, having been appointed in 2019. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri at Columbia and a J.D. from Drake University.

Judge Higgins also previously spent more than 20 years serving in the Office of the City Counselor for the City of St. Louis, including more than seven years as Attorney Manager for the Municipal Prosecution Division.

Judge Colbert-Botchway Reappointed to ABA House of Delegates

The Missouri Bar Board of Governors recently reappointed the Hon. Nicole Colbert-Botchway to serve as a representative on the American Bar Association House of Delegates.

The House of Delegates serves as the policy-making body of the American Bar Association and is comprised of legal professionals from local and state bars from around the country.

The Hon. Nicole Colbert-Botchway

“I will continue to provide valued service and be responsive to the diverse needs of our membership while supporting the ABA’s mission to equally serve our members, our profession, and the public as the national representative of the legal profession,” she said.

Judge Colbert-Botchway is an associate circuit judge in the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court and currently assigned to Family Court in Division 16.

She was on the bar’s Board of Governors from 2012-2016 and has served in several roles for the ABA. She is a proud graduate of St. Louis University School of Law and University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Judge Colbert-Botchway joined the Missouri Bar in 1997.

22nd Judicial Circuit Court Announces Retirement of Probate Commissioner Patrick J. Connaghan

The 22nd Judicial Circuit Court today announced that longtime Probate Commissioner Patrick J. Connaghan is retiring with plans to return to private practice, effective Wednesday, June 1.

Retiring Probate Commissioner Patrick J. Connaghan

Connaghan was appointed as the Court’s Probate Commissioner in 2007 after previously serving as General Counsel and Clerk for the City of St. Louis Board of Aldermen for approximately 12 years.

He is a Past President of the Missouri Association of Probate and Associate Circuit Judges and a 2009 Science and Technology Fellow for the Advanced Science and Technology Adjudication Resource Center (ASTAR) in Washington D.C.

In 2014, Connaghan received the Isabella Horton Grant Guardianship Award from the National College of Probate Judges. Commissioner Connaghan is a proud 1983 graduate of St. Louis University School of Law.

The Court wishes to thank Commissioner Connaghan for his many years of dedicated service to our local judiciary and for his many contributions to our community and the legal profession.

Succeeding Connaghan will be Jill Hanley, who was appointed by the Court En Banc on Tuesday, May 31 to serve as the new Probate Commissioner. Hanley previously served as Deputy Probate Commissioner and Public Administrator for the City of St. Louis.

May 2022 Declared “Drug Court Month” in the City of St. Louis

By proclamation of Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, May 2022 has officially been declared as “Drug Court Month” in the City of St. Louis.

The accolade coincides with “National Drug Court Month”, which is observed each May by drug and treatment courts across the country and is coordinated by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals.

It’s also in recognition of the recent 25th anniversary of the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court’s treatment court program, which began in April 1997 and is now the second-longest running such program in Missouri.

“We’re grateful for this recognition from Mayor Jones and the City of St. Louis and are happy to have their support. It’s important that our elected leaders in local government understand the difference treatment court is making in the lives of our residents and their families,” said the Hon. Rochelle Woodiest, Treatment Court Commissioner for the 22nd Judicial Circuit.

“Treatment courts such as ours provide evidence-based treatment and judicial oversight and accountability to help lead people out of the grips of addiction and related crime and help put them on a path toward recovery and hope. We thank Mayor Jones and the City for helping to bring attention to our hardworking staff who help carry out this mission every day,” said the Hon. Matthew Melton, Treatment Court Commissioner for the 22nd Judicial Circuit.

Wilford Pinkney Jr., the Director of Children, Youth, and Families for Mayor Jones, present the Hon. Rochelle Woodiest and the Hon. Matthew Melton, Treatment Court Commissioners for the 22nd Judicial Circuit, with a proclamation declaring May 2022 “Drug Court Month” in the City of St. Louis

The proclamation from Mayor Jones reads:

WHEREAS, The 22nd Judicial Circuit Court is the proud home to Missouri’s second longest running treatment court program at 25 years old.  The award-winning program has helped approximately 2,200 St. Louisans break the cycle of addiction through recovery and accountability; and 

WHEREAS, Treatment courts have been restoring lives and families for more than three decades.  There are now nearly 4,000 treatment courts nationwide; and they are the cornerstone of justice reform sweeping the nation; and 

WHEREAS, Treatment courts have served more than 1.5 million individuals.  They are now recognized as the most successful justice system intervention in our nation’s history.  They save an average of $6,000 for every individual they serve; and 

WHEREAS, Treatment courts significantly improve substance use disorder treatment outcomes, substantially reduce addiction and related crime, and do so at less expense than any other criminal justice strategy; and 

WHEREAS, Treatment courts improve education, employment, housing, and financial stability, promote family reunification, reduce foster care placements, and increase the rate of addicted mothers delivering babies who are fully drug free; and 

WHEREAS, Treatment courts facilitate community-wide partnerships, bringing together public safety and public health; and they demonstrate that when one person rises out of substance use and crime, we all rise. 

Now, therefore, I, Tishaura O. Jones, Mayor of the City of St. Louis, do hereby proclaim the month of May 2022 as:

“DRUG COURT MONTH”

IN THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused to be affixed the seal of the City of St. Louis, this 1st day of May, A.D. 2022.  

The proclamation was presented Monday, May 23 by Wilford Pinkney Jr., the mayor’s Director of Children, Youth, and Families, during a regularly scheduled treatment court graduation ceremony.

Three additional individuals were recognized for successfully completing the program before a crowd of friends, family, supporters, and previous graduates.

Circuit Judge Mason Honored for Organizing New Freedom Suits Memorial

The Hon. David C. Mason has been recognized for his leadership and vision in organizing a new memorial in downtown St. Louis honoring the history and legacy of the Freedom Suits.

The Royal Vagabonds Foundation awarded Judge Mason with its 2022 Leadership Award for civic engagement along with attorney Paul Venker of Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice. Venker serves as chair of a the Freedom Suits Memorial Steering Committee and has been instrumental in helping making the project a reality and organizing support among local legal and civic-minded communities.

The Hon. David C. Mason
Attorney Paul Venker

The memorial, which will be formally unveiled during a 5 p.m. ceremony on Monday, June 20 on the east plaza of the Civil Courts Building, honors hundreds of courageous enslaved plaintiffs who sued for their freedom in the years leading up to the Civil War. Learn more from the St. Louis Bar Foundation here.