(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Two long-time local attorneys are facing off in a race to become an associate judge at the Buchanan County Courthouse.
Democrat David Peppard has 26 years experience as a private practice attorney. His opponent, Republican Kate Schaefer, has been with the Buchanan County Prosecutor's office for the past 15 years.
"My opponent is a prosecutor and a very good one. Her experience has been in criminal cases," Peppard said. "I've handled some criminal cases of my own but my experience has been in family and civil law. That's what's done in Division 1."
Schaefer says her experience as a prosecutor will be valuable to sitting on the bench.
"Prosecutors review cases from both sides from day one," she said. "We are the most impartial attorneys that we have. We're not getting paid to review from both sides. We're not getting paid as a civil attorney to only represent one side. We're reviewing both sides of the case and we're making a decision."
The Division 1 courtroom handles a lot of civil cases involving children.
"You often have very conflicting versions of the facts when there are allegations of neglect and abuse," Peppard said. "You have to do a lot of digging and be very discerning to find out where the truth lies."
Schaefer says she wants to make a difference in the lives of children.
"There is a civil side to these cases that I couldn't get involved in as a prosecutor that I wanted to be involved in to help the kids, not only from this side, but I wanted to help the kids through those things as well."
Both candidates say if elected, they will rule from the bench remembering some of the frustrations they have had as attorneys.
"I'm there to listen, I have always been frustrated as an attorney when I walk into a courtroom and there's a judge who hasn't heard my case, hasn't heard the facts, hasn't heard any of the evidence but has already made half their mind up about what the case is going to be about," Peppard said.
"Every area of law that I have worked in, I've really just tried to help people and make the best decisions for what sits in front of me. I hope the community supports me in this," Schaefer said.
Melissa Lawyer currently sits on the bench in Division 1. She was appointed after the retirement of long-time judge Randall Jackson last year. Schaefer defeated Laywer in the August primary.