State probate judge association elects Commissioner Patrick J. Connaghan president

LAKE OZARK, Mo. — Members of the Missouri Association of Probate and Associate Circuit Judges have elected Patrick J. Connaghan, Probate Commissioner of the 22nd Judicial Circuit, City of St. Louis to serve as the organization’s President for 2014-2015 at its 99th annual meeting and conference.


The MAPACJ provides continuing legal education for its members at the three-day conference.  Membership is open to all state judges and commissioners in Missouri’s 45 judicial circuits.  Among the 180 judges and commissioners registered were judges from the Missouri Supreme Court and the three Courts of Appeal.


Commissioner Connaghan has been a member of MAPACJ since 2007 and has served as Chairperson of the organization’s Mental Health Committee and as a member of the Board of Directors since 2001.


In addition to Connaghan, the officers for the coming year are Gary Kamp, Cape Girardeau County, vice-president; Corey K. Herron, Atchison County, secretary-treasurer; Kelly Lovekamp, Schuyler County, historian; and Stephen P. Carlton, Jasper County, past president.


Other judges and commissioners elected to the board: Rob Fulton, Madison County; Tracey Mason-White, Sullivan County; Scott Lipke, Cape Girardeau County; Greg Gillis, Jackson County; Ray Dickhaner, Jefferson County; Jerry Holcomb, Jasper County; Edward M. Manring, Gentry County; Kevin Walden, Carroll County; Kelly C. Broniec, Montgomery County; James D. Beck, Lincoln County; Thomas C. Fincham, Platte County; and Corey K. Herron, Atchison County.

St. Louis City Circuit Court Speeds Gun Cases Through New Criminal Docketing System

ST. LOUIS (April 17, 2014) — A trial assignment system that the St. Louis Circuit Court adopted January 1 for cases of illegal gun possession has shortened disposition time and reduced backlogs.

The Court adopted the system in response to concerns of City elected officials and law enforcement officers, who called for steps to bring swifter justice to those accused of gun crimes in the City.

In the first three months of this year, the Court has moved 245 gun possession cases to trial divisions, 180 of which have been disposed — 143 through guilty pleas, 11 through trial verdicts, and 26 because prosecutors dismissed them. Of the remaining 65 pending cases, approximately half are scheduled for guilty pleas in coming weeks.

Under the Court’s new system, the criminal assignment division under Circuit Judge Bryan L. Hettenbach develops a weekly docket, assigning simple gun possession cases to one of the Court’s criminal trial divisions at the first setting date following the formal filing of charges.

Formerly, the assignment division treated these cases as other felonies, automatically granting a continuance at the first setting, which postpones trial date for six weeks. After that delay, the assignment division commonly granted continuances at the request of prosecutors or defense attorneys.

The new procedure applies toall cases charging felons in possession of firearms or unlawful use of a weapon by carrying a concealed weapon or by exhibiting or flourishing a firearm. Gun cases including simple drug possession charges are included. Excluded are gun cases accompanied by any other charge involving a specific victim. These go through the normal felony docketing process.

On the first trial date of the year — January 6 —57 gun possession cases went to trial divisions. The number included some old cases as well as recent ones. That week, 28 were disposed. By the final week of the quarter, only five relatively recent cases were on the docket, three of which were disposed.

Time of disposition of these cases — from formal charge to conclusion through guilty plea, trial verdict, or dismissal by prosecutors, dropped under the new system. Cases of felons in possession were 27.2 percent shorter in duration, while case times for unlawful use of a weapon declined 14 percent.

“The cases eligible for this streamlined process are relatively straightforward and lend themselves to quick disposition whether by guilty plea or trial,” Hettenbach said. “Cases where guns were used in robberies or other crimes require more preparation time by both prosecution and defense, and no one has urged the Court to speed them through the system.

“Under this system, we have reduced the gun possession caseload to a very manageable level, ensuring that our Circuit Court will swiftly handle all gun possession cases brought by the police and circuit attorney.”