The 16th Circuit Court in the State of Missouri is unique in that, to my knowledge, it is the only circuit court in Missouri that employs attorneys as law clerks for each of the circuit and associate circuit judges, as well as two family court commissioners. I was lucky to be able to serve as a law clerk to the Honorable Sherrill L. Rosen, Family Court Commissioner in Division 42 for almost 2 years.
You may be asking yourself, “what does a trial court law clerk do at the state level?” The answer to that question will probably amaze you, because it really is a little bit of everything.
Jackson County has two main courthouses (Kansas City and Independence) due to the fact that Jackson County has two county seats. But there are also two other courthouse buildings, the Family Justice Center as well as the Albert Riederer Community Justice Complex. The circuit and associate circuit judges that are housed in the Kansas City Courthouse, generally will be on a two year rotation, either domestic, civil or criminal, and will only hear those types of cases during their rotation. The circuit and associate circuit judges in Independence are different in that each circuit judge will have a civil, domestic and criminal docket at all times and each associate circuit judge will keep the same dockets each year.
The law clerk really is the right hand the judge and depending upon the type of docket the judge has, has varying duties. The first duty is to be the face of the division. The law clerk is regularly communicating with attorneys and pro se litigants regarding filings and hearings. Also, the law clerk will be in charge of the pending motions in the division to ensure that all motions before the court are ruled on. This may require the clerk to research the law and present the research to the judge so that the judge can make the best decision possible. The law clerk may also be responsible for drafting orders and judgments based upon the Court’s ruling.
Whenever the division is in trial, especially a jury trial, the clerk will wear its bailiff hat, and act as the liaison between the court and the jury, ensuring that the jurors have everything they need to fulfill their duties. Further, in the event the jury is sequestered, the law clerk is sequestered right along with the jury.
As a law clerk to a state court trial judge, you will learn not only effective motion practice, but also effective trial advocacy skills to be used during oral arguments and trial. The skills learned are invaluable, including knowledge of the local court rules. My first piece of advice… before you enter a courtroom, make sure you read the local court rules. Being a law clerk is a wonderful learning experience and a great stepping stone to a long and lasting legal career.
If you have any questions or are interested in becoming a law clerk in Jackson County, please do not hesitate to stop by 103 or email Jennifer Riedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.