Like the rest of the State and Nation, the 43rd Judicial Circuit (Daviess, DeKalb, Caldwell, Clinton and Livingston counties) is scrambling to process its workload while maintaining limitations imposed as a result of COVID-19. Elected Circuit Clerks handle in-office duties with the help of deputy clerks who come in on a rotating basis. Those clerks who are not physically in the office continue to work from home with the aid of high-tech equipment provided by the State of Missouri. Judges conduct hearings with the aid of closed-circuit transmissions, zoom, web-ex and other systems.
In a recent conversation with Missouri Supreme Court Judge Zel Fischer (he serves as Supreme Court liaison for the northwest portion of the state) we discussed the significant advantage our circuit had over other circuits when the virus restrictions were imposed. The 43rd already had security screeners in every courthouse. In addition, our court personnel were well-versed in the use of closed-circuit technology as we had utilized it with our prisons and regional jail.
As our Circuit’s Presiding Judge, I want to express my gratitude to local judges, clerks and employees for performing their duties under difficult circumstances. I also want to thank our county commissioners and other officials for their cooperation in implementing the directives of the governor and Supreme Court. I keep reminding myself our sacrifices pale in comparison to those of care-givers, first-responders and other front-line providers.
Although I am fully cognizant of the tragedy and losses associated with the current pandemic, I want to mention a loss to our circuit that occurred shortly before the virus hit. In relating this story, I intend no disrespect to those suffering under our current tragedy, I only hope a little levity will ease their tribulation.
Cliff Deshon, of Clarksdale, Missouri, served 16 years as the DeKalb County Circuit Clerk prior to his retirement in 2008. To say he was a joy to work with would be a gross understatement.
Cliff and his wife, Bev, were fond of my son, Connor, and never turned him down when he was selling tickets to a fundraising event. Annually, Francis Whitmer of Stewartsville, made a quilt to raffle and raise money for Connor’s Boy Scout Troop. It fell upon me to deliver some of these tickets to Cliff and procure his payment. He bought 30 tickets @ 6 for $5 and, since I refused to accept his check, gave me $25 cash. It was my job to write the purchaser’s name and telephone number on each ticket. “Cliffy, do you want me to put Bev’s name on the tickets since the winner gets a nice hand-made quilt?” I asked. “NO!!” he replied emphatically, “I paid for them so I want my name on them!”
I went into the clerk’s backroom and filled out the tickets. I noticed the shredder machine was on and the basket was empty. I ran the tickets through the shredder and placed the pieces into an envelope. I returned to his office and said, “Cliffy, I have good news and bad news. Which do you want to hear first?” As always, he replied, “Give me the good news.” I held up the envelope and said, “The good news is I wrote your name and phone number on all 30 of these tickets.” He looked puzzled and asked, “So what’s the bad news?” As I dumped the contents of the envelope on his desk, I replied, “The bad news is - I don’t think you’re going to win.” When he recovered from the shock he laughed so hard I thought he might break a rib. I left with his money.
Brent Elliott is a judge for the 43rd Circuit Court in Missouri.