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COVID-19, Legal System Problems The Focus Of 13th Circuit Judge Forum

COVID-19 and many other problems harming our legal system are the focus of the circuit judge election. Candidates for the Circuit Judge position of the 13th circuit participated in a Zoom forum held by the League of Women Voters and sponsored by the Columbia Public Library on Tuesday night.

On the topic of COVID-19 and the challenges that have resulted from it, Republican candidate and incumbent Josh Devine talked about the delays caused in the courts as a result of the pandemic saying “delay is the ultimate enemy of justice.”

He continued to detail what precautions courts have taken to get back to hearing trials such as having members of the jury sit six feet apart with masks on. Democratic candidate Andy Hirth said it has been difficult to get all the lawyers on the same page when you can’t do a deposition in person. He also outlined some ways courts have been adjusting to the pandemic.

“So I think that’s the biggest challenge, is just trying to figure out ways to use the technology, things like Zoom and some of the other formats that the courts have used have been really effective. I’ve had half a dozen appearances this summer, all by Zoom from this room which is a very interesting way to practice law,” Hirth said.

In closing statements, Hirth said he believes he has the trial experience and has an understanding of ways things can go wrong at trial and can prevent them as a circuit judge. Devine said his passion is making sure everyone is given a fair chance by the justice system.

“My job is to make sure that every single person that appears in front of me has a full and fair opportunity to be heard and that they’re given a fair shake, regardless of their background, personal experience or life experience.”

Voters can cast their ballots absentee, by mail-in ballots or in person on November 3.