By Alexandra Nicolas
Globe Staff Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Two men running for associate judge in Missouri’s 39th Circuit began battling it out in a Jasper County courtroom this week.
Jasper County Circuit Judge Gayle Crane heard arguments Wednesday concerning the disclosure of documents sought by Robert “Bobby” George, Aurora, the current Lawrence County prosecutor. George is challenging the residency of Samuel Jones, a former prosecutor and former associate circuit judge in Lawrence County.
Both men hope to win the Aug. 3 primary; George filed on Feb. 23 as a Republican, Jones on March 30.
In his lawsuit, filed earlier this month in Jasper County Circuit Court, George alleges that Jones has his primary residence in Lee’s Summit and does not meet residency qualifications to run for office in Lawrence County. George wants Jones’ name removed from the ballot.
George filed court requests with Jones for numerous documents, including:
Billing statements filed with the Missouri Supreme Court and Jones’ Missouri bar registration.
Tax returns and bank statements.
Registration and title for vehicles and driver’s license information.
Evidence of gifts and donations made.
Copies of checks for homeowner association dues to a property in Lee’s Summit.
Anita Oakes, attorney for Jones, objected to the release of multiple pieces of financial information during a hearing Wednesday, arguing that producing them violated her client’s right to privacy. She also said that some information requested, such as that concerning Jones’ gifts and donations, “is not relevant and it’s not calculated to lead to any type of discovery.”
“It’s not our responsibility to give (the plaintiff) everything under the sun for him to find other things,” she said.
Bruce Copeland, attorney for George, responded by saying it is not specific financial information George is interested in, but elements such as the Missouri tax returns that are “signed under penalty of perjury” and list his county of residency.
“(The plaintiff) has a right to ask for it,” Crane told the attorneys.
For his part, Jones told the Globe recently that “I have been and continue to be a resident of Lawrence County, Mo., dating to June 1946.”
He said he also maintains addresses in Mount Vernon and Miller.
Jones was elected Lawrence County prosecutor in 1972 and held the post until he was appointed chairman of the State Tax Commission in 1981. He served in that role for six years.
Jones was appointed to be the associate circuit judge when that position was created in 1991, was elected to the balance of the term in 1992, and re-elected to a full term in 1994. He also served as a probate judge for Lawrence County and juvenile judge for Lawrence and Barry counties. He left the bench and went into private practice in Mount Vernon before making an unsuccessful run to be Missouri attorney general in 2000.
George said owning property in a county is not the same as being a resident there and should not make him eligible for office.
“That is what my issue is,” George said. “If someone is going to run in a county and seek office in a county, the residents ought to be assured it is someone living in the county and knows what the county issues are.”
George also served as municipal judge and city attorney in Aurora.
He said he was required by election law to file the lawsuit in a county adjacent to the 39th Circuit, which consists of Lawrence, Stone and Barry counties, and said he chose Jasper County because he has worked cases there and always found judges in the county to be “reasonable.”
A trial is set for 10 a.m., May 22, a Saturday, as it was the only day all parties involved were available.