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Harris to be appointed, run for Circuit Judge in Boone County area


COLUMBIA, Mo. – Former State House Minority Leader Jeff Harris announced Thursday that he will file for Circuit Judge when candidate filing begins in February. Prior to running for a full term, Harris will accept an appointment by Gov. Jay Nixon to the judgeship in the spring.


The seat is opening upon the retirement of well-respected Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler, who will reach the mandatory retirement age for judges on April 21, 2016. 

The judgeship covers Boone and Callaway Counties and is in Division 2 of the 13th Judicial Circuit of Missouri, which handles general civil and criminal dockets. 

“Jeff Harris is an exceptional public servant who combines a brilliant legal mind, with impeccable character, integrity and ethics,” said Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who served four terms as Missouri Attorney General. “Often the best judges are ones who have excelled both in their legal careers and at the highest levels of government. Jeff will bring both real-world experience and an exhaustive knowledge of Missouri law to his upcoming position as Circuit Judge. His inherent fairness and appreciation of right and wrong will serve the citizens of Boone and Callaway Counties well for years to come.”

Harris, 51, has served for seven years as Policy Director in the Missouri Governor’s Office under Gov. Nixon, and will continue in that capacity until next year. He represented Boone County in the Missouri legislature from 2003-2009, rising through the ranks to become leader of the House Democrats.

Prior to his election to the House, Harris served as an Assistant Attorney General, where he represented governmental entities, including high-profile cases involving statewide elected officials from both parties. He previously served as a private-sector attorney at the law firm of Atwill & Montgomery in Columbia and at Bryan Cave LLP in Kansas City, where he handled complex litigation in state and federal courts across the country. Harris has taught continuing legal education (CLE) classes to fellow attorneys, authored a law review note as well as publications accompanying CLE classes. 

“For the past 24 years as a lawyer, I’ve relied upon my judgment to make important, high profile decisions,” said Jeff Harris. “It will be a tremendous honor to use this experience to faithfully serve the citizens of mid-Missouri as Circuit Judge.”

“Jeff Harris is one of the smartest guys I know and he will be a great judge,” said businessman and fellow Democrat Barry Aycock, who was by Harris’ side when he ran for attorney general. “He is one of the most sincere, kindest guys I know involved in politics. Very few and far between. He’s fair and impartial, which is what will make him a great judge.”

Harris was born and raised in Columbia before earning his B.A., magna cum laude, from Vanderbilt University in 1987, and his J.D. from Cornell Law School. He held a clerkship with Chief Judge William Barbour of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. He was a member of the Board of Editors of the Cornell Law Review and completed the Senior Executive Program at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government in 2005.

“Jeff Harris is an outstanding choice to represent Boone and Callaway Counties on the bench,” said former Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Joe Moseley. “Jeff’s legal experience and accomplished government service will serve him well in the search for justice.”

Harris, who presently serves on the Columbia CrimeStoppers Board of Directors, lives with his wife Katie and children Grace and Ted in Columbia. They are members of the Missouri United Methodist Church. Harris’s father, Robert, is a longtime pediatrician in Columbia, while his mother Jerry and sister Julie (Harris) Shaw both taught at Fulton High School in Callaway County.