22nd Judicial Circuit Court’s Treatment Court Program Honored for 25 Years of Distinguished Service, Excellence

The 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of the State of Missouri, which proudly serves the City of St. Louis, is pleased to share that its award-winning treatment court program will be honored today, Thursday, March 31, by the Missouri Association of Treatment Court Professionals for 25 years of distinguished service and excellence during the organization’s annual conference in Branson, Mo.

Leadership and team members from the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court’s Treatment Court program

“Of course, we do not do what we do for the awards or accolades. We are here to help some of the most vulnerable among us caught in the merciless grasp of addiction or a mental health crisis,” said the Hon. Matt Melton. “However, our team is deeply appreciative and honored to be recognized by other treatment court professionals from across Missouri for a quarter century of working to make a difference.”

Founded on April 7, 1997, the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court’s treatment court program is the second longest running treatment court in the state. It is a specialized evidence-based, diversionary court docket designed for nonviolent adult criminal offenders, juvenile offenders, and parents with pending child welfare cases with demonstrated histories of mental health problems and/or drug and alcohol dependency and related crime.

Led by two commissioners, the Hon. Matt Melton and the Hon. Rochelle Woodiest, the program involves a multidisciplinary team of court professionals working collaboratively through a holistic approach to divert these individuals from the traditional and costly incarceration model of the criminal justice system by connecting them to tools and resources to rebuild their lives with intense supervision, judicial oversight, and personal accountability. The work also involves participation from judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, social workers, case managers, probation officers, service providers, and other subject matter experts.

“What treatment court does is offer these individuals a chance to be a more productive member of society while putting them on a path toward a successful recovery,” added Commissioner Woodiest. “Through available services and resources, they are able to earn a living, find stable housing, stay with their families, pay taxes, and/or finish their education. That benefits absolutely everyone and makes us a safer, stronger community.”

To date, it’s estimated that the 22nd Judicial Circuit’s treatment court program has successfully graduated approximately 2,200 individuals.

While participant eligibility, program duration, and requirements differ person to person, each must demonstrate abstinence from drugs and alcohol, satisfy rigorous treatment and supervision conditions, complete program requirements, and pay applicable fees and restitution in order to graduate.

To learn more about the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court’s treatment court program, please visit the Court’s website here.

To learn more about the Missouri Association of Treatment Court Professionals, please visit their website here.

22nd Judicial Circuit Court Further Updates COVID-19 Operations & Procedures

Presiding Judge Michael F. Stelzer last week signed COVID-19 Administrative Order #55, which effective today, Monday, March 21, further rescinds the Court’s existing pandemic-related mandates with some limited exceptions.

For instance, Court employees who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 are no longer required to submit weekly proof of a negative test result.

On the other hand, all Court employees must continue to follow the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) related to quarantining and isolation if they believe they were exposed to COVID-19 and/or are sick and have tested positive for the virus.

The Court will also continue to follow all current CDC recommendations for its juvenile detention facility and adult detainees when they’re in its custody.

Individual judges may exercise their own discretion regarding what pandemic-related restrictions or procedures they might want to continue to institute so long as that decision does not conflict with the intent of Presiding Judge Stelzer’s latest order. You can read and/or download COVID-19 Administrative Order #55 in full on the Court’s website here.

“I realize that these are a lot of changes to digest all at once and that many of you have differing opinions about where we are with COVID-19 right now. But please know the health and safety of our staff and anyone with business before the Court remains the number one priority and that we will continue to closely monitor the recommendations of our local public health experts,” said Judge Stelzer. “I am hopeful that we can continue to move in a positive direction and am grateful for all you’ve done and sacrificed over the past two years.”

According to the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force and the City of St. Louis Department of Health, the region continues to see sustained decreases in multiple key metrics that measure the level of COVID-19 activity in the community, such as new hospital admissions, new confirmed positive cases, and average positivity rate.

Circuit Judge Katherine Fowler Helps Local Students Navigate Complex Legal Issues

St. Louis Circuit Judge Katherine Fowler speaks with eighth grade students at Compton-Drew ILC Middle School on Friday, March 11.

A group of St. Louis middle school students got an inside look Friday, March 11 at the decisions and complexities behind a landmark United States Supreme Court case that started just a few miles away.

22nd Judicial Circuit Court Judge Katherine Fowler visited with eighth graders in Ms. Hernandez’s social studies class at Compton-Drew ILC Middle School and gave a presentation about the challenge of deciding tough cases.

Prepared by the Supreme Court of Missouri’s civic education committee, Judge Fowler focused on the Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier presentation, which examines complex First Amendment, freedom of speech, and censorship issues that arose after a dispute involving a different school.

When a principal concluded that stories about teen pregnancy and divorce should be removed from the school newspaper, student journalists filed suit and set the state for litigation that shaped the constitutional rights of students seeking to invoke the freedom of the press.

“This particular topic is especially relevant today so I really wanted to help these kids understand the varying legal issues that can come up about what you might say, write, or wear when you are or aren’t at school,” said Judge Fowler. “Ms. Hernandez’s students asked really great questions and were fully engaged in the conversation the entire time. I’m grateful for the chance to meet with them and hopeful that we were able to inspire a new generation of lawyers and judges!”

St. Louis Circuit Judge Katherine Fowler dives into the complexities of First Amendment and freedom of speech cases with eighth grade students at Compton-Drew ILC Middle School on Friday, March 11.

Judge Fowler also took time to answer questions about her career path from law school to attorney to the bench, how you become a judge in the City of St. Louis, and other varying legal topics.

If you are interested in having a judge make a presentation at your school, please contact the civic education committee at Civic.Education@courts.mo.gov. Presentations are available for both in-person and virtual learning environments.

22nd Judicial Circuit Court Updates COVID-19 Order for Masks/Face Coverings

On Thursday, March 3, the City of St. Louis Department of Health announced that it would not seek to extend the City’s existing indoor mask mandate due to continuing downward trends of COVID-19 activity in the community. That means it will expire at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, March 5.

In light of this news and in accordance with updated mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Presiding Judge Michael Stelzer has issued a new COVID-19 Administrative Order rescinding the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court’s indoor mask mandate effective Monday, March 7.

The only exceptions to this move are for confined detainees upon the Court receiving custody of the individual, detained juveniles, and all those entering the Court’s juvenile detention center in a public area. The new order also provides individual judges the ability to make further determinations about the necessity of masks for their own courtrooms and proceedings.

This is the only COVID-19 order for the Court that is changing at this time. However, leadership is continuing to review all existing orders, mandates, procedures, and mitigation strategies based on positive case counts, new admissions, local hospitalizations, and other key metrics and anticipates providing another update soon.

The Court fully recognizes that lifting the mask mandate will be welcome news for some people while causing others a great deal of hesitation and uncertainty. Please know the Court supports and affirms the choice of any employee or member of the public who wishes to continue wearing a mask in its facilities and strongly encourages mask wearing among vulnerable populations, especially those in high-risk groups, the immunocompromised, and/or who have underlying health conditions.

The Court also strongly recommends that absolutely everyone with business before it continue to follow the simple measures that we all know by now can help reduce transmission: routine hand washing, social distancing, vaccination, regular testing, quarantining and isolating if positive, staying home when sick, etc.

It’s been a challenging two years for all of us, but the Court wishes to thank its staff and the community for everything they’ve done together to help keep it open and operational under extraordinarily difficult circumstances.