Three faces long familiar to County personnel and those having business with the Linn County Circuit Court will no longer grace the halls of the Linn County Courthouse. After many years of faithful service, 9th Circuit Judge Gary Ravens, Linn County Circuit Clerk Elaine Clough, and Deputy Circuit Clerk Lillian Eskew will be retiring as of January 1.
“There wasn’t so much specialization when I began practicing law in 1972,” recalls Judge Ravens. “I was appointed by the court to defend some clients who couldn’t afford an attorney, but we didn’t have public defenders. There was no money for discovery (i.e., obtaining and duplicating evidence possessed by the prosecution); we kind of did things by the seat of our pants.”
Having already completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting at Southeast Missouri State University, Ravens entered Law School at UMKC in 1970. “I had a friend who was going to law school,” he recalls. “The idea of being involved in trials in courtrooms sounded a lot more exciting than bookkeeping, so I decided to study law.”
It would be another 25 years before Ravens would rise to take a seat on the Bench. After working as a trial lawyer in private practice and serving as Marceline City Attorney, Ravens seized the opportunity to run for 9th Circuit Judge in 1994 and again in 2000. “There’s a lot of luck involved,” he says modestly of his rise to the judiciary. “You have to run by age 58 because you can only serve as a Circuit Judge in Missouri until age 70. I was just in the right place at the right time.” Judge Ravens is retiring at the age of 67.
When asked what he will miss most and least when it comes to serving as 9th Circuit Judge, he replies with no irony in short supply, “I’ll miss juvenile cases the least, but I enjoyed adoptions; somebody actually wanted a child.” But Judge Ravens’ response makes perfect sense to anyone who has worked within Missouri’s juvenile justice system for long. Sadly, many parents who take their children’s behavioral problems to a juvenile officer do so belatedly and with a desire for the state to become an in loco parentis (surrogate in place of the parent). And by the time the juvenile officer exhausts all of the informal measures available and resorts to taking the case to Juvenile Court, the Juvenile Judge sometimes has little to work with in terms of maintaining the cohesiveness of the child’s family. It is little wonder, then, why a successful adoption would be so appealing to Ravens who has served as Linn County’s Juvenile Judge for many years.
Page 2 of 3 - Although the wards of the Linn County Drug Court program Judge Ravens has led for the past decade are legal adults, he feels no small amount of paternalism where they are concerned. Like a stern but very caring father, he gives the most attention to those who are drug and/or alcohol-addicted worst. “The Drug Court guys I’ll remember best are the ones that didn’t make it,” says Ravens. “I had one guy for four years who never did graduate.” It took so long for a probationer to ‘wash out’ of Drug Court because Judge Ravens would respond to a ‘dirty’ UA (i.e., urinalysis test that indicates drug use) by putting the recalcitrants in jail for 120 days. When they finished that four months of incarceration, they would have to start participation in Drug Court all over again. Most eventually got the message that the only way they were ever going to graduate from Drug Court was by staying ‘clean’ or free of drug use. After I mentioned that the sentencing guidelines the Missouri Legislature recently adopted didn’t include additional funding for substance abuse treatment, Judge Ravens objected, “Drug Court is one of the few programs the State didn’t cut; in fact, the State increased funding. We got $38,000 this year, and the first three years we were in operation, the Drug Court program was funded by a federal grant that went through the State.” Praising the local out-patient drug/alcohol treatment provider, Judge Ravens added, “Treatment is expensive, especially when more intensive in-patient treatment is needed. But when someone needed in-patient treatment, Preferred Family Healthcare always seemed to find the money for it.”
Ravens has a good deal less praise for the Missouri Dept. of Corrections (DOC): “DOC finally got on board with the use of video arraignments, but not until 10 years after Tom Parks had the idea, and we began saving a lot of travel expense by not requiring his people to physically bring defendants here for a five-minute hearing. Tom was way ahead of the State on that deal and besides saving us a lot of money, video arraignments are much better in terms of security (i.e., having to take the risk of a defendant in custody fleeing).”
Elaine Clough’s 22-year tour as Linn County’s Circuit Clerk will also be coming to an end as of today. Before she ran for that office in 1991, Elaine had never campaigned or held a government office. She recalls, “I was the single mother of three kids who wanted to go to college, so when a friend suggested that I file for the Circuit Clerk position, I thought I’d give it a shot. I ran against three other women in the primary election and then went head-to-head with Pat Tollerton in the general election. I grew up and worked here for many years, and was fairly well known, so successfully campaigning wasn’t that difficult.”
Page 3 of 3 - Clough would only be challenged for the office of Linn County Circuit Clerk one more time and as that contender would learn, she wasn’t easy to unseat.
In spite of that success, Elaine never lost her humility and probably gained more compassion through her contact with crime victims as well as litigants and defendants. “I’ve been down, and I realize that some people have to contend with incredibly difficult odds,” she reflects. “And you can’t always tell a book by its cover; as rough around the edges as some people look, they’re still good-hearted. They just make bad choices sometimes.”
Remembering the days before the move to Linneus when Circuit Court was held in Brookfield, Clough grimaces, “I used to handle all the child support cases and the Ex Partes (i.e., orders of protection against stalkers). People used to call me constantly about their child support checks, and women who were horribly beaten would drop protection orders they had filed against their abusers. I once had a woman come to my house for an Ex Parte. I dealt directly with the victims. I would have to take an Ex Parte to Judge Devoy’s house to get his signature and then deliver it to the Brookfield Police Station.” Those responsibilities were delegated elsewhere when the State took over the child support cases in 2001, and the computerized JIS (Justice Information System) was established in 2002. And the establishment of a Linn County Crime Victims Advocate precluded most of Clough’s direct contact with victims of crime.
In addition to the 22 years Deputy Circuit Clerk Lillian worked along side of Elaine Clough, she was in the County Assessor’s Office for three. Like Judge Ravens, Lillian regards adoptions as “the most rewarding part of working in the Circuit Clerk’s Office.”
She reflects, “Adoptions represent the one time when everyone leaves the courtroom happy, and it has been nice to be involved in that part of the legal process.”
As her long career with Linn County draws to a close, the soft-spoken Deputy Circuit Clerk reminisces, “I will miss the other people who work here. Many of them are friends of mine, not just co-workers. I’m sure I’ll stay connected with them on a social level, but it won’t be the same as the everyday contact.”
Lillian plans to spend her time “quilting, traveling, and spending more time with family and friends.”