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Five Questions: Michael Cordonnier

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Gov. Matt Blunt appointed Michael Cordonnier, a member of Lathrop & Gage PC’s Springfield office, to the 31st Judicial Circuit. He replaces Don Burrell, who was appointed to the Missouri Court of Appeals Southern District. Cordonnier’s work on the bench as one of five circuit court judges begins in February; he will have to run for re-election in November.

Q: Tell me about your professional background.

A: I grew up in Springfield, and after going to law school (at University of Tulsa) I came back here and joined (Daniel Clampett Powell & Cunningham LLC) as an associate, became a partner and worked there for 19 years. I had a general law practice, primarily courtroom-based – litigation, trial practice, those sorts of things. At that point, myself and two partners started (Cunningham, Harpool & Cordonnier LLC) … focused on litigation. We did that for two years and were very busy, and we determined in 2004 that we would merge with Lathrop & Gage, and we became partners there.

Q: What led to your decision to accept this position?

A: I have long carried the thought that there is no better opportunity for a lawyer to be of service to the community than being a judge in court. After 25 years, I thought I had gained the experience necessary to be an effective judge. It’s a new challenge in my life, and I look forward to the challenge.

Q: Why decide to change legal roles now?

A: Some years ago, a judge on the circuit court advised me that you would want to do this job when you’re young enough to do the job with energy and enthusiasm, but old enough to bring experience to this responsibility. I’ve always thought that was a neat way to look at it.

Q: What is the biggest challenge that you face as a new judge?

A: The biggest challenge, after I learn the basics of being a judge and learning to manage the workload and the time, will be the workload. When I began my practice of law 25 years ago, Greene County had five circuit judges. Today, we still have five circuit judges. The Office of State Courts Administrators Judicial Workload Survey showed that, in Greene County, we’re seven judges short of the amount determined to be necessary for efficient operation of the court. The responsibilities of the Greene County court have grown tremendously.

Q: Are you aware of HB 1629, which would add a sixth judge to the 31st Circuit?

A: I’m aware of that – in fact, there’s been a bill with that intent each of the last two legislative sessions. In the last session, there was no merit opposition to it; it just didn’t pass because of procedural issues. The current bill … would go a long way toward alleviating the backlog of cases and the time issues that are so prevalent in the circuit court.

Interview by Jeremy Elwood.[[In-content Ad]]

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