The Ottumwa Courier

Court Calls

September 4, 2012

There's no place like (a new) home

Court Calls

OTTUMWA — District court judges cover a lot of territory, akin to the legendary circuit-riding judges of yore. A total of six preside in the 10 counties that comprise Judicial District 8-A, covering 5,129 square miles and home to 163,158 people!

Doing the math, it is clear that not every county can have its own resident district-court judge, desirable as that prospect might be. Currently, there are resident judges in the following six counties: Appanoose (Judge Daniel P. Wilson), Jefferson (Judge Myron L. Gookin), Keokuk (Judge Joel D. Yates), Mahaska (Chief Judge James Q. Blomgren), Monroe (Judge Annette J. Scieszinski), and Wapello (Judge Lucy J. Gamon).

I recently moved to Ottumwa from Sigourney, where my family and I had lived for the last 19 years, and where I presided as a district associate judge. In 2010, the governor appointed me to serve as a district court judge, which entailed enlarged responsibility under Iowa law and an expanded geographical area. I’m often asked if there was a residency requirement that prompted my move. The answer to that question is no. District court judges are permitted to live anywhere in the district they serve. Yet, from the standpoint of effective judicial administration, it is sensible to have the judges dispersed throughout the district and available for dispatch where needed.

When Judge Richard Meadows retired in 2010, there was no longer a full-time resident, district-court judge in Ottumwa. As the geographical center of the 8-A District and most populous county, Wapello County draws upon judicial services frequently, well beyond the Monday “court-service” day typically staffed by two district judges. Being the resident district-court judge means that my headquarters is in the courthouse in Ottumwa, and on the days that I am doing desk work — what we call “ruling days” — I am available to address emergency and other matters that pop up in a busy courthouse. For example, while I work on my trial rulings, I may also review charging documents for new criminal cases, issue arrest warrants for probation and parole-violation complaints, evaluate applications for involuntary mental commitment, consider petitions for immediate relief from domestic abuse and sign routine court orders.

Although I very much enjoy traveling throughout the district with its daily variety of people, cases and experiences, it is still true that there is no place like my new home!

Judge Gamon’s office is in the Wapello County Courthouse and she is dispatched to various court assignments throughout the 8-A Judicial District. She may be reached at lucy.gamon@iowacourts.gov.

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