Saying he wants to take advantage of his good health while he can, Cole County Associate Circuit Judge Tom Sodergren announced Friday he will not seek re-election.
"January 2019 will mark the end of my sixth term," he said. "If I had sought a seventh term, it would have been my last on the bench."
That's because state law does not allow for any judge to be on the bench after they reach age 70. Sodergren will turn 66 at the end of 2018.
"It has been a privilege to serve the citizens of Cole County for 28 years, but I have a long bucket list that needs my attention now," he said.
A Republican, Sodergren was first elected in 1994 after 16 years in private law practice.
Before being elected to this office, Sodergren served two terms as Jefferson City's municipal judge and before that was a two-term city prosecutor. In 2004, he received the state of Missouri Mothers Against Drunk Driving Judge of the Year Award.
In his time on the bench, Sodergren said, he's heard in the neighborhood of 150,000 cases. In 2017 alone, he estimated he had 6,300 cases.
"The reason I have so many is because we're the only circuit in the state that has only one associate circuit," he said. " I do it all. I handle everything from felonies to landlord/tenant disputes to traffic offenses."
The one thing Sodergren said he'll miss is the people he's worked with at the courthouse. He noted no matter who the other judges in the courthouse have been, they've all been able to get along.
"One thing I won't miss is being on call," he said. "We, the four judges in the circuit, rotate being on call. I always said nothing says 'Merry Christmas' like restraining order. Those usually happen after midnight, and if we have mental commitments, they also usually happen around midnight."
Sodergren said most people don't know that every election, two of the judges from Cole County and the secretary of state form the Canvassing Board to certify the results of the elections.
"During the time I've been here, I've certified several presidential and governor's elections," he said. "As a matter of fact, in certifying one governor's election, I was convicted of treason by the True People's Court of Johnson County — so that's something you don't forget."
Sodergren said he wouldn't miss the routine.
"If I had a docket like the circuit courts, they can schedule cases differently," he said. "If they have a jury trial and it goes off, then they have time to do other things. I don't have that luxury here. I have something every day in my court. So I won't miss absolutely having to be here."
Sodergren said he failed to appear for court only a couple of times, and those were due to injuries he suffered while playing basketball.
"The only time I do something that everybody leaves happy is when I marry people," he said. "I probably have married 8,000 people. My predecessor, Judge McCormick Wilson, used to say that if an attorney leaves through one door of the courtroom with his client and they think they got a raw deal and the other attorney and his client leave through the other door and feel they got a raw deal, it was probably a pretty good decision."
Candidate filing for the associate circuit judge position begins Feb. 27.