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A Conversation With … Jessica Kruse

Associate Circuit Court Judge for Christian County

Posted online

Why did you run for an elected judgeship?
My friend Jennifer Growcock ran for the circuit judge position in Christian County and I was on her campaign committee. People started saying to me, ‘You should run for that.’ I spent a lot of time in prayer and discernment making sure that this is something that I was supposed to be doing. Being a judge is the ultimate way, I think, that an attorney can serve the community.

As the primary judge presiding over juvenile cases, what’s the state of the foster care system in Christian County?
There are between 120 and 130 kids in care currently. That includes little children through abuse and neglect cases and older kids that are through the Division of Youth Services. The way the juvenile court system in Christian County has been run is very efficient. One of the challenges is that there is definitely an expectation that Christian County is going to grow fairly rapidly over the next several years. So, making sure that our court system can keep up with that and that we can change with the changing demographic and the changing population is certainly something that we’re looking at. There are some holes. For instance, some of the resources that we use for mental health treatment, we have to send a lot of people to Greene County and there’s a lot of backlog.

What principles will guide you as a judge?
At the very top of the list when I walk into the courtroom everyday is making sure that people feel heard and they don’t ever get the impression that I’ve prejudged the situation. Second is making sure that people are respected when they come in the court. In order to be fair and impartial, you have to be a good listener and you have to be respectful of people.

What is the jump to judge from attorney like?
As a lawyer, you’re always advocating for one party. And as a judge you really have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture and listen to all sides before making a decision. One thing that was very helpful for me was being a guardian ad litem in family law cases. In those situations, I’m having to listen to two sides, usually both parents or sometimes grandparents that are involved, and trying to make a decision that is in the best interest of the child. So that’s a lot of times what my focus is in family law cases. That experience really helped me prepare for what I’m doing right now.

On the national stage, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is facing allegations of sexual misconduct. Can you speak to the importance of a judge’s character?
It’s important in any elected position when the citizens are putting their trust in you that they know who it is that’s going to be in that position. With Judge Kavanaugh, you have a discrepancy between the public face that he is putting forth and potentially the private life that he had. Is that ultimately going to factor into how he makes a decision? It’s relevant whether a person is lying about the way they’ve acted in certain situations. I honestly cannot say that I have an opinion one way or another as to whether he should be confirmed or not confirmed. I think the concern is the way that he might view people of a different sex – if he’s making decisions that have to do with women’s rights issues and things of that nature [and] if he ultimately has a view of women that does not necessarily see them as an equal. If you’re going to be running for a public office, you have to be prepared to address those things. Whether you admit you screwed up or say that it didn’t happen, you have to deal with that.

Jessica Kruse can be reached at jessica.kruse@courts.mo.gov.

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