JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Greene County civil attorney Rep. Kevin Austin, R-Springfield, is the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and new member of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. The Missouri Times caught up with the new chairman immediately after the State of the Judiciary speech to hear his thoughts.
“There was one issue that she had brought up that I hadn’t recognized, and that’s the growing population of elderly citizens that will need some special attention,” Austin said. “[The Joint Committee on the Justice System] is going to take a two-year look at all of the issues that she mentioned,” Austin said. “Certainly the municipal courts and how they interact with both the public and the courts system. We’re going to look at funding for the courts, especially with the technological updates.”
Like many in the building, Austin was impressed by the 540 million hits the Case.net system has had in the past year and he welcomes further applied technology to the courts. He shared that in Greene County, arraignments can be done by video, saving tax payer dollars.
“Electronic filing has been very successful, but we have to be careful to make sure that the alternative methods are still available,” Austin said, speaking to those in the system who are not utilizing an attorney for whatever reason. “It’s not just having a computer, it’s knowing the court’s software. The old fashioned way is still there and it has to be.”
Austin joins the Chief Justice in also looking forward to the legislature taking a second look at expanding drug courts throughout the state.
Greene County has been a leader in special courts, including drug, homeless, and mental health courts. Austin and his wife, a probation officer, are both involved in the specialty courts.
“Greene County prides itself – and should take pride – in the success they’ve had with specialty courts,” Austin said. “We were the first highly successful drug court in the state. They all come down to Greene County and look at us and a lot of [the specialty courts] [across the state] are very successful.”
The Macks Creek law has become the sexiest issue for the legislature so far this session and Austin doesn’t have any issue with giving municipal courts a second glance, believing that revenue should not influence the justice system. But, as most would expect from the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he’s looking at the other side of the issue.
“If we want to have the speed limit changed to 73, then let’s do that,” Austin said. “But, the law is on the books and they need to be enforceable. … We will be working with [Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Russell] and look for ways to help the courts and, as the Chief Justice said, make it a more fair and efficient justice system,” Austin said.
Austin has practiced law privately for almost 2 decades.
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.